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Hopeless in the Holy Land

Last summer’s Operation Protective Edge may seem like a distant memory to most of us. But for those living in Israel, who weathered those seven weeks of rocket attacks, red alert sirens, and running for their lives, the fear is still fresh – as Israeli writer Corinne Berzon captures in her moving essay in today’s Times of Israel.It was on June 12th of last summer that I drew my last full breath. The tight choking fear, the black gnawing sorrow, the empty hopelessness of those dark days of war have yet to subside. Something died inside of me last summer. It has not yet come back to life. I know what it was that is now lost to me – hope.Under fire, at first the failed attempts of Hamas’ rockets were the subject of ridicule. Clever memes, safe room selfies and Hamas ringtones stopped being even mildly entertaining the day the nation’s children laced their boots. A summer of funerals. A summer of blue skies marred by billowing smoke. A summer of shrapnel littering the beach like so many shells.We tossed in our beds, waiting for sirens. We did not let our children roam far – one never knew when they would need to run for shelter. Better to keep them close. Throats constricted, hearts ripped open, we watched and listened and cried. A heavy tense anger came over our country, as if our unbreakable unity in the face of war needed to be paid for with patience. In the grocery stores and parking lots, people snapping like brittle twigs, throwing their pain at one another in desperation. And then embracing, leaning on one another to keep from collapsing. Another siren. Another funeral.In the months since we have weathered many storms. Stabbings and shootings and car attacks. More funerals. More tears. And still that death grip around my throat. Still the pain constricting my ribs, crushing my heart. There are moments that I feel I must open my mouth wide, until my jaw unhinges and my lips curl, in order to draw in air. I still can’t breathe. I know I’m not alone.And while we pray to the God of all hope for the safety of Israel and her people, we understand Corinne’s despair – and are moved by her love of the Holy Land.And yet, to be frank, I still prefer this fatalism, this hopelessness, this constant shadow of war, to living in (a)broad daylight unafraid and complacent and not Israeli. It is still better to love this land and lose hope, to struggle and fail, to breathe each breath as if through a narrow straw of pain and fear, than to breathe easy and not know how incredible this tiny doomed country is. I love this land, with a deep aching love that only grows stronger and more hopeless. And so, although I know we will never truly be safe, I could never not-live anywhere else.Read the entire essay here.


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