Missing Pieces

It’s funny how sometimes two simple words can describe so much. That’s what Israel is like today – missing pieces. Our sons are where they need to be, poised and waiting for a command to do what they need to do. We are perched, there on the edge – so very very close to the edge – war or cease-fire? That seems to be the question most of the world is urging Israel to answer.

Silly, really because that isn’t the right edge, it isn’t the right question. We don’t want war, but a cease-fire that simply postpones the inevitable for a few weeks, months, even years, is not enough. We have a generation of traumatized children and adults who have learned to walk with one eye on where they can hide. I had a brief taste of that Friday night as I hurried back from Lauren and Elie’s apartment to my house.

As I walked, I looked – there….no, not here….where? The second siren came as I was passing Shmulik’s little yard where he’s planted tomatoes, melons and tons of flowers for his wife. I ran up the steps and into the house as everyone in the house was entering the bomb shelter. This is how Shderot has lived for 12 years – children Aliza’s age have never known a time when they didn’t have to know where and how fast to run. We have 90 seconds; they have 15.

We have mobilized tens of thousands of men, women and equipment – no, this isn’t about the cost involved but about the disruption to lives, the lives that have already been lost, so many wounded, so many homes, businesses and at least two schools damaged by rocket fire. What logic is there in pulling back now only to have to do it again in the near future? So the question for Israel, at least, isn’t really war or cease-fire – it is war or ….what? Peace? Too much to even dream about – but it has to be longer than 4 years.

And while we all contemplate that question, Elie and unit wait. Impatient, most likely, anxious to move on or come home. He’s missing his classes. He studied so hard to get into engineering school. He hasn’t missed a single day since he started – and now he’s missed three days of classes. And that’s where I thought of those words – those missing pieces. Everywhere you go – there are missing pieces.

A store can’t deliver something because someone has been pulled into the army; a class will happen today, many classes – and there will be so many missing students. A teacher won’t be there because he too has been called in. Amira goes to Hebrew University – she received a note from Hebrew U. telling its students that they should go in safety and return in safety and afterwards, the school and the lecturers will do all that is necessary to help them fill in the missing pieces.

If we go to war – some of those missing pieces may be gone forever – another reality that weighs on my mind. I don’t have an opinion about the answer to what is facing Israel. But four years ago, despite my own fears, I knew that what Elie was doing was important and needed to be done. At some point, the Palestinians got the wrong impression that they would be allowed to attack Israel endlessly and constantly and so long as we were all blessed by the miracles of God and they didn’t manage to kill dozens in a single attack, we’d take it.

Well, we can’t take it anymore, if we ever could. People in the south have been missing pieces of their lives for over a decade. They have the right to run in the fields and not worry about the skies. They have the right to live a normal life without fear. What the army did four years ago gave them a measure of quiet, even if it didn’t last long. Within a short while, rockets were again being fired, sometimes dozens a day, now hundreds. What kind of life is that, to live this way? The children miss going to school, as amazing as that sounds; they miss playing outside. Parents are missing work, missing sleep, missing a sense of peace if their children are out of sight.

The one thing on which all of Israel agrees is that the question here is not war or cease-fire. Perhaps it is about continuing to live with these missing pieces or finally asserting our rights to a full life for all our citizens, for our children.

It will take me a long time to forget Aliza’s quiet whisper on Friday night, “I’m scared.” She didn’t want to admit it; she didn’t want to give in to it, but it was there – after only two sirens. Imagine forty a day. Imagine living with this need to ensure a clear path – every day….for twelve years.

Right now, all of Israel has missing pieces – our soldiers who are down near Gaza waiting for an order to begin. Perhaps the real question is if a nation can live with missing pieces or do something to return them. Perhaps the real question facing Israel is War or Missing Pieces?

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