by Hdar Yashar
I live in Jerusalem, Israel. To some, that is a scary thought right now. The situation here has escalated to at least one killing a day and fear has found shelter in the most seemingly unlikely places. Yet, I have still managed not to feel afraid; I will not allow myself to live any differently than before this intafada began.
However, something has happened, and my terrified barometer has completely jumped out of range. My husband of 5 months has been called to serve in the army reserves. Yes, for three weeks, my husband will be living in what has come to be known as the "territories" and will walk around with a gun strapped to his back guarding or driving or doing something to protect this country from the terror inflicted on its people.
I just have one question. What about the terror that has been inflicted upon me now that my husband must serve as a soldier? Who will protect me from the fear that I could lose, while carrying his child in my belly, the only man I have ever loved enough to commit my entire life to? (Okay, that was two questions, but they are both extremely valid questions to ask.)
I comfort myself with varying thoughts. I tell myself that our lives together have many years to come. I reassure myself that it simply cannot be "his time to go" because we, as in the great words of Karen Carpenter, "have only just begun". The truth is though; I do not know what will be. I am not certain of his fate, my fate or our fate.
It seems though, that this draft has stirred up various thoughts in my mind. It has suddenly occurred to me (though the knowledge of it has existed for quite some time) that I am not the only woman living with this fear. Men all over the country are being asked to serve at the age of 18 until 21 and then to serve again for three weeks out of every year for the rest of their adult lives.
My husband is no exception. The difference being that as a newlywed, I have only just discovered the dread of this reality. Some have lived with this fright for many years. Mothers are faced with it the day their children are born in this place.
I suppose I could ask myself as a born and bred American, if I would have moved my life to this country knowing that one day I would be faced with the possibility of losing my family in a moment of crossfire or some other form of military action. The answer is yes. As a Jew, it is my right and privilege to live in my homeland. Nevertheless, this new found feeling of fear is based on a fact that I and many others have always known. The only difference between then and now, them and myself is that I have only just discovered the emotional anguish accompanied by the truth of the situation.
So, what am I doing to cope with this most horrible state of affairs? The truth is, I am probably not coping at all, but I have taken various actions in hopes of being able to deal with the absence of my husband.
I bought him a cell phone. My husband hates the brain tumor-contributing device most of us find nearly impossible to be without. Nevertheless, last week I found myself standing at the sales counter of one of the largest cell phone suppliers in the country requesting a phone with "all the trimmings" for the man who would soon leave my life for what I am hoping will be a very brief moment.
As soon as I brought the doohickey home, I fervently read through the instructions and for the next two hours began programming it with, in my opinion, all the necessary numbers in order for the man I love to be able to reach me at any time of day or night without a thought about it. I learned how to use the contraption and all it's functions in order to show my husband as soon as he arrived home from work that day. As a small side note, he thanked me for the thoughtful purchase and did not pay attention to a single explanation I gave to him. He figured that it's a phone and he will simply dial the numbers necessary and hope that the call reaches the other party.
I am also praying. I am praying that my husband comes home in one piece, alive and healthy, ready to raise a family. I pray that he is not taken from me before our first child has even been born.
Besides that, what does a 5 month newlywed and 4½ month pregnant woman do in order to placate the disruption of peace running through her veins and seemingly invading her life? Now, there is a question for the ages. The answer, I must tell you, does not exist. How sweet a thought though, if there were an answer to such a question. How entirely divine a prospect if there were formulas for the different fears we face in life that we could just throw together in a blender and swallow once in the morning and once in the evening?
I have discovered something though. I have stumbled upon a fear that I never before contemplated or fathomed. It seems that while I am praying for my husband's safe return from his days as a temporary soldier, I am faced with another reality. This will not be his last time leaving me to serve his country. In fact, for approximately the next ten years of our lives together, the dearest person to me in this whole world will be called every year to serve for at least three weeks.
In other words, the fear does not disappear upon his return home to me; it merely hibernates until his next call for duty and that, within itself, is a fear I never anticipated. The fear of wondering if it will be our last year together, our last child together and any other "lasts" you can think up.
Honestly though, it simply is not worth it. I do not believe that fear deserves that much energy nor does terrorism deserve the terror it is succeeding in stirring up. I suppose that if we all continue to allow ourselves to be afraid of our "lasts", then terrorists have won the war. Let's surrender now and give them what they ask for. I think not. Therefore, I am pledging to myself, to the State of Israel and anyone else who cares that I am making a pledge, that I will not be afraid. I will not allow the situation, this admittedly wretched situation, to consume me with the terror it seems to be working so hard at succeeding in doing.
At the end of the day, you know, I could get hit by a car while crossing the street in Pleasantville, USA. So no more fear for this gal. However, I still reserve the right to miss with all my soul, waking up next to the man I love with all my heart. Therefore, I will continue to pray for my husband's safe return to me in three weeks and I will probably call him at least five times each day just to hear his voice express the tenderness he feels for me, but I will not tolerate any form of fright that may present itself.
from the April 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine