For those who don’t know, my youngest daughter is 11 years old, 11 and a half really. A few months ago, on a Friday night, two Palestinians sneaked into the Fogel home in Itamar and there they murdered…butchered…two parents and three children. Their bodies were discovered by their 12-year-old daughter, Tamar, when she returned home Friday night from youth group activities.
While much of Israel was caught up with the agony of this young girl and her two remaining brothers, suddenly and violently orphaned, I had my own bit of drama and trauma here in my home. My daughter identified with Tamar and became terrified that the same would happen to her. Nothing comforted her at first. She was afraid, for the first time in her life, to be alone at home even for a few moments; she was afraid of the dark; afraid of open windows that would allow terrorists to enter our home.
When I tried to tell her we would protect her, she answered too wisely for her age, “Tamar’s parents couldn’t protect them; how can you?” Indeed, Udi and Ruti apparently did manage to protect two small boys sleeping in another room, and so, at least Tamar has those brothers, though the Awad cousins did manage to murder her other two brothers and her baby sister. Aliza seemed to be getting worse for a while. It wasn’t enough just to assure her that the front door was locked; she wanted her bedroom door to be locked too. It wasn’t enough that we have bars on the windows; she wanted her window closed and her shades drawn closed against the dark.
She had nightmares that I thought signaled things were getting even worse, but according to the school counselor, this was actually a good sign in that it meant she was starting to find ways to cope. That her subconscious was sort of taking the trauma out and examining it and learning to deal with it. Whatever the reason, there were nights she came to my bed, shaking and crying and spent the next few hours with me.
I consulted people, psychologists, etc. and went with my instincts. I allowed her to fear and answered each fear. She slept with a fan rather than an open window. We put a window alarm on the window as well. She slept with a light on; she locked her door and checked the house locks too. Slowly, so painfully slowly, all that she has added on, she has removed. She can now sleep in her room with the door unlocked – except Friday nights. The lights are off again; the windows open again.
And then came a special challenge. We are now celebrating the holiday of Sukkot in Israel. Our front porch has been enclosed with bamboo mats and a fragile roof has been added. Decorations line the walls and the “ceiling.” But a simple rain would easily pass through, strong winds…even gentle ones…set things aflutter in the sukkah.
The point of the sukkah is to remind us that life can be precarious at times and it is our faith that strengthens and protects us. There is a custom to not only eat in the Sukkah, but to sleep there as well. To sit there as often as possible during the days and nights, to almost live there. Aliza wanted to sleep there. There are no windows, no doors, no locks. She won’t sleep there on her own but for the last several nights, either a friend has slept over or her younger brother pulled in a mattress on the other side and last night, I joined her.
I was awakened by the dog barking and I listened to see who approached. She slept peacefully and sleeps still as I sit a few meters away writing this. Aliza doesn’t know about the agreement to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners; doesn’t know that dozens will be released back to their homes in Jerusalem and nearby. She doesn’t know that a vicious killer named Ahlam Tamimi will be released to Jordan, to the hills I can see from my window.
But she has beaten the demons that have frightened her these past months. She has put them back and away and perhaps the next time she has to face them, she will see them for what they are – cowards that sneak in the night, slither in the dirt while she lives in the light.