Make Your Life a Blessing

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Narratives From The Front

Existential Threat, Trauma, And Life Goes On In Israel

It is hard to imagine trauma and resiliency without hearing the stories of people actually living daily under an existential threat. Below is a description from an American woman (Karen K'aisha Roekard) very familiar with Israel, and there during the most recent skirmish.

More information about trauma in Israel can be found at: http://www.union-street-health-associates.com/articles/post_traumatic_growth.pdf

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9:35 a.m.

I have so much to say about so many things but on this day that ends with Erev Thanksgiving, nothing seems quite right. The part of my neshamah that I want to hear from is quiet, while another part calls out to speak.

It’s the Middle East, and so without warning,

EVERYTHING KEEPS CHANGING: terrorists blew up a bus in Tel Aviv

After Ban Ki Moon announced the need for a Palestinian State, rather than condemning Arab aggression, we heard that a bus was blown up in Tel Aviv and ~ an hour later there was an attempted suicide bombing on the US embassy in Kabul. Funny to watch myself feeling furious rather than fearful. I wonder: Where did my fear go?

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Is it that writing to you gave me a job and that meaning and purpose in a difficult situation are empowering (and/or deluding?) Maybe it’s just a matter of time passing and relative quiet? Maybe as humans we can only stay with the chemical rush of fear for a certain amount of time and then numbness or growth or something happens? I just know I’m not feeling the uninterrupted drone of fear anymore.

Hillary came last night and started her shuttling, the shelling continues in the South, young kids spend large amounts of time in shelters, the regular army and reservists are completely ready to enter Gaza, the country very much wants this situation to end differently than last time so that the military does not have to go into Gaza again in three months or three years. Everyone just wants them to stop shelling Israel.

 

Last night we “changed the channel” and took a trip to Har Nof into an Orthodox “situation comedy:” the bar mitzvah of a cousin’s grandson. His brother (fellow holding baby - a “baby” himself), was given a 24-hour leave at noon to attend the Bar Mitzvah. He said that they are unceasingly drilling, that they have their orders, each man knowing what he is going to do and that they were just waiting for the word.

I have many cousins here so lots of family members have kids in the army or reserves. My cousin Moshe wrote me that his sons have NOT yet been called up but the attack in Tel Aviv will probably “do it.” As long as they’re not called up, we believe (because of their jobs) that there will be no invasion. His youngest daughter is in the south in the army. He wrote: “...yaelle is down south helping in schools (some schools are opening so the parents can get a break) and in shelters. It's amazing the comfort the sight of the army uniform gives to the kids in the shelters- they are hugging her and kissing her- she feels soooooo good about what she is doing- and, of course, her Abba is very proud of her also. she started off being scared to death but now, while she is careful and still scared when she hears the boom- she knows she is doing an important job so she just goes about her job.”

My friend Emuna Witt, compiler of the annual Kol Chevra (R. Shlomo Carlebach z”l memory books), parent of fourteen children:

http://youtu.be/owmvxCaYasU

I don’t know if the people in Gaza are inviting Hamas to use their houses as launch pads, to put rockets/missiles in their homes, or if, they are given no choice by those in power - forced to be human shields. I watched in amazement on Israel TV as they showed a hatch opening in the roof of a building and out shot several rockets. Then the hatch closed and the roof looked like any roof. I assume this is real.

I am in awe of the capabilities of the Iron Dome. We are living here in the middle of a pinball machine where someone uses (maybe) one finger to press a trigger in the hopes of having one or two or three or four or five or six rockets or missiles hit a specific, geographic location on a map that they know to be densely populated with Jewish boys and girls, babies, middle-aged kids, adolescents, pregnant women, the old, the sick, Alzheimered, mentally unbalanced, stores, schools, hospitals, single family homes, multi-story houses, poor, homeless, wealthy, etc.

Then another young person on our side is put in the position of having to calibrate the trajectory of said rocket/missile. If it is aimed at a densely populated area, they pull a trigger and there are flashes of light in the sky as each missile is hit. Each of these trigger-pullings costs between $35 - 50,000.

If the Iron Dome didn’t work, it is horrifying to think of the number of innocent civilians who would be killed (against Geneva Conventions), the powerlessness that would be felt, the terror that would be roused.

I imagine I also understand the folks in Gaza who are terrorized by the Israeli pinpoint bombing. I don’t understand them not being able to have the consciousness to realize that they can make this stop and that if the Israeli’s don’t give them forewarnings about forthcoming pinpoint bombs or artillery, there will be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties in Gaza.

My friend Lloyd Morgan told me about how there is a consciousness within sports enthusiasts to cheer for the perceived underdog. But who is the underdog between two teams when one gives gold medals for life while the other, for death?

In the end it seems to me that it’s not just about being in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Sderot or Kabul or Gaza. If it’s anywhere, it’ll be everywhere. Israel may be the canary in the global mine, but are we the frog in the pot? (No animals were harmed during the making of this incredible video).

http://youtu.be/svpsLZDgFK4

I’shalom,

Karen K'aisha Roekard

 

7:35pm Jerusalem time. It’s the Middle East, and so,

EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED AGAIN: ceasefire announced

They just announced a ceasefire to go into effect in 1.5 hours. My sister is not hopeful and thinks many Israeli’s will be unhappy with this. She is quite clear in her beliefs, “Israel is REACTING to her innocent citizens being targeted. Don’t shoot us; we won’t shoot you.”

May it end up being a real, meaningful and lasting ceasefire leading to a solid peace.

Thanksgiving Day 2012 22 minutes into 24 hours of speaking only of that which I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for the respite our troops are getting right now from their unceasing heightened alert consciousness of the past week, (even as I don’t believe Bibi made the right choice).

I am thankful for having a mind that has beliefs, and may it be wrong in it’s latest pronouncements.

I am thankful for the capacity sometimes to be right and sometimes to be wrong.

I am thankful for living in a time and being a citizen of a country that allows me as a person, as a woman and as a Jew to have choices and to speak my mind about them freely and out loud.

I am thankful you are part of my life.

I hug you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Karen K'aisha Roekard

Ilene Serlin, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and founder and director of Union Street Health Associates and the Arts Medicine Program at California Pacific Medical Center.

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