I was on the train when I got a phone call.
“The rumors are true,” a colleague told me. “It hasn’t cleared the censors yet, but they found the boys. Not alive.”
For 18 days, we stood together as a nation, waiting by the windows, looking for three silhouettes over the horizon. United by an exquisite hope that there would be a happy ending to a dreadful story, that our boys would come home safe and sound.
Eighteen–the Jewish number for “life”–such symbolism, such irony, as I heard the news, and a keening wail ripped through me.
I was alone on the train as we ricochetted out of Rehovot and into Tel Aviv. I wanted to tell someone, to share this burden of knowledge that couldn’t be shared yet because the families didn’t even know for sure–although some say they may have known all along.
“Baruch Dayan Emet,” Blessed is the True Judge, I whispered behind my shaking hands.
And then I thought of my own children–my son had graduated preschool just an hour before. My blue-eyed beamish boy who sleeps with a camel, and loves to draw rainbows, and will one day wear olive green and defend this country with his life. I looked back at the pictures from that celebration, the children dancing together in their pressed pants and frilly skirts, their faces shining, never for a second knowing that they would one day inherit a country with such a reality.
By the time I left the train station, the censors had cleared the story and there were people crying, just like me.
In this country where we bicker our way across a three lane highway, in this country where we nearly come to blows over a parking space, in this country where we push our way to the front of the line and shout our feelings, and rarely say “excuse me,” without irony, when something like this happens, and there is a rend in the fabric of our nation, we step back and let others pass before us. We hug. And we reach out with shaking hands for the shaking hands of others.