Naama Barak
October 10, 2023

On Saturday, when I told my four-year-old daughter on a hurried drive home that Mummy might have to pull over and lie on top of her and her baby sister in case of a rocket attack, she was most impressed by the fact that we’d be touching the road.

Since then, we’ve had numerous bizarre conversations – “Mummy, what shape is a rocket?” and “Mummy, what do they use in wars? Sticks?” – are just but two examples that have left me gobsmacked.

We’re doing fine so far – thank God – and I really, really hope that things will stay this way, but am too scared to think about it too much. Instead, I am focusing on incredibly mundane things given the massacre and bloodshed all around, such as cleaning the house, or whether my daughters ate their lunch properly.

This juxtaposition is super bizarre and again, super lucky. With my partner away on reserve duty, and my parents stuck abroad, unable to catch a flight back, I’m on full parental mode. This means playing playdough all day, drawing, cooking, cleaning, bathing, baking and trying to keep the straightest, most normal face while my daughters are awake.

Once they’re asleep, all the thoughts flood in: the videos of children and babies kidnapped to the Gaza Strip, the stories of families murdered in their beds, or trying to defend their homes, of the young people out partying who were slaughtered on the spot. 

And then, it’s back to my private life yet again – a night bottle here, a nappy change there, making sure they’re both covered by their blankets. 

My friend Maya lives down the street, and once the war began told me in no uncertain terms that she’d be coming over help out with the kids over the next few days. And she most certainly has. In fact, she’s sitting in the armchair opposite me as I write. 

On the couch next to me is my younger brother, Assaf, who came here straight from Sinai and has been a most wonderful brother to me and uncle to the girls, even if to her disappointment he won’t let my eldest paint his nails. 

I think they also find it truly weird to be playing games or pouring out juice on days like this, but I hope that for them, like me, this kiddie-centric world is able to provide somewhat of an alternative universe, a brief respite, from the horrors engulfing our country.

Another good friend of mine came over on Saturday night, after the first day of the war, for a very stiff drink. She told me that she was about my daughter’s age when the Gulf War broke out, and that she distinctly remembers the gas masks hanging in her kindergarten, as well as the bomb shelter there.

I wonder what memories my daughter will have of this time, and I pray that they’ll only be of little, strange episodes, like playing with magnets in the shelter or wondering where animals hide when the sirens begin. This also makes me glad that they’re both still so young, and that camping out in the shelter in our flat is something that’s unusual and fun, rather than absolutely petrifying. 

I’m also so grateful that they, unlike an imaginable number of children and people elsewhere around the country, actually have a shelter to peacefully sleep in.

Israelis inside a public bomb shelter in Ashkelon, October 8, 2023.  Photo by Chaim Goldberg /Flash90
Israelis inside a public bomb shelter in Ashkelon, October 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg /Flash90

I pray that these awful, uncertain times will be behind us as soon as possible. I wish those whose loved ones have died find comfort, the wounded a full recovery, the hostages an immediate return, and those who have witnessed atrocities peace of mind. 

I wish that parents, siblings, partners and friends will be able to stop jumping every time their phone beeps, scared to death for those in the frontlines.

And to my daughters – I hope that the world you’ll grow up in will be even marginally better than the one we’re currently in. And I hope that I’m doing a good job pretending to you that it is.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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