No, Actually, I Am Not Okay.

Dear Josep,

I swear I was in the middle of writing a post about the terrorist attack yesterday–the murder of Daphna Meir in her home in Otniel, south of Hebron–and how it shattered my sense of security, when a text from our town council told us that we were in lockdown.

Soon the news came through that someone had been injured in a stabbing attack within Tekoa and the terrorist had been shot.

The first thing you do is check with the preschools and schools where your kids are that everyone there is okay. After establishing that, the news slowly started to come through: pregnant woman. Seriously injured. Near the industrial zone. Holy crap, I think. That’s like a 2 minute walk from my house. I can practically see it from my kitchen window. Right next to my kid’s school. The terrorist was shot near the horse farm. Holy crap. That’s right next to my other sons’ preschool. One of them is home sick today… but the other. Did he hear the gunshot?

The next thing you do is start to panic about all the pregnant women you know who might have been there. My downstairs neighbor is in her 30s, pregnant, and works at the second-hand clothing store at the industrial zone sometimes. The woman who teaches my bridal counselor course fits those criteria too.

Text messages. E-mails. Facebook. A lot of nail biting. Refreshing news websites. Trembling hands.

A Whatsapp message: please pray for Michal bat Esther. A link to a special site that allows people to collectively read Psalms for a cause. And that horrible sense of relief that settles over you when you realize that it isn’t someone who is close to you. Horrible, because it shouldn’t matter. I read a chapter for her.

And then, as more details emerge, it becomes clear that I do know her. Michal Froman, daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, the famous and controversial rabbi of Tekoa who was a peace activist. I attended a few of her yoga classes. I did translation jobs for her husband. I see her around every now and then and we exchange hellos.

Talk about a shattered sense of security.

Later reports changed the status of Michal’s injury from “serious” to “moderate.” She underwent successful surgery and is stable, and so is her fetus. Thank God. Another, bigger sigh of relief. She’s going to be okay.

This is all on the backdrop of yesterday’s incident, that I mentioned at the top of the post. Daphna Meir, 38, mother of six (two of whom were foster children), fought off a terrorist who broke into her home and stabbed her. He ran away without harming anyone else, but Daphna died of her wounds. The army is still hunting for the terrorist.

I made the mistake of reading a more detailed account of what happened in the incident. I will spare you the details of what I read. No parent should ever have to hear these things. It’s horrible and heartbreaking and it made me nauseated and weak and short of breath.

It’s not that these incidents are “worse” than what’s been going on for the past few months. They did strike particularly close to home, and this terrorist-breaking-into-your-house-and-murdering-you-in-front-of-your-children thing is truly a whole different level of nightmare. But you know… with these things happening so often, you can’t really feel how awful it is all the time. So you block it out. You numb yourself.

I was 15 during the worst of the second intifada. I remember a period when the word “pigua” (“terror attack”) would sweep my school in an urgent whisper. The first question you asked was, “Where?” And then, “How many killed?” If it was more than five, you clutched your chest and reached for your book of Psalms. If it was less than five, you shook your head and clucked your tongue. If it was “none, only injuries”–you shrugged and went on with your day. It’s awful, but it’s the only way to keep going. You have to step back and look at the situation with cold objectivity. It’s the only way to be okay.

But sometimes, something will happen that will snap the situation back into grim focus. It’ll be something that hits particularly close to home–either someone you know, or somewhere close to where you were, or some situation that is chillingly familiar. And you feel everything. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Desperation. You realize that there are people out there, people who live just over there on the next hill, who want you and your children dead simply because you are Jews daring to live in your historic homeland. And you realize that some of those people are willing to hunt you down and stab you for that reason and that reason alone.

And you are not okay. You are not okay at all.

But eventually the funerals end and the injured come home from the hospital and things start to become routine again. And there is still bad stuff on the news, but slowly you start to breathe a little easier, and you stop checking over your shoulder every time you walk outside your door. And you are okay again. For the time being.

People keep asking me if I’m okay. I feel a need to answer “Yes.” Technically I am. As Eitan wryly jokes, I have all the right holes in all the right places. My family and I are safe… as safe as we could be under the circumstances, at least. And there’s a part of me that wants to show how defiant and strong we are. Sure, I’m okay. I’m fine. Screw the terrorists, they won’t break me.

But no, actually. I am not okay right now.

I’ll be okay.

But not right now.



P.S. If any of you are wondering how on earth one responds to a post such as this, I posted this guide for your convenience a couple months ago. You’re welcome. 😛

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