We needed a break. And even though a cease fire had just been declared and wonderfully maintained, the kids and I really wanted to just leave Israel for a bit.
So we booked a flight to the Netherlands to rebreathe for a couple of weeks. To remember how it is to not be afraid. Not alert. Not cautious.
The Netherlands is a funny country. When you open the tap, you can actually drink the water that comes out. The largest insect in the house would be an ant. Or, okay, a tiny silverfish. Kids play in the playground all day long because the jungle gym never gets too hot to handle. When we see a dead fish floating in the canal, we call the municipality to complain. And they will show up shortly after. And believe it or not, people throw their trash in trash cans. Weird, I know.
The first couple of days we were like sponges. We sucked up everything we saw, wordlessly. Seeing my husband enjoy his country silently proved me right. If I hadn’t joined him to Israel six months ago, I would never have understood his need for home. I would never have understood his thrill seeing cows and inhaling the cold morning air.
No helicopters circling above our house. No shots fired in the not so far distance. I found it impossible to believe how easy life felt. For the first couple of days. Then, it felt as if we had never left. And we started complaining about the weather again. About politics in the Netherlands. About taxes.
Until I was at the GP’s office this morning. My hair had been falling out the last couple of weeks. My muscles ached, I was tired, I had headaches and nausea. To rule out anything more serious than stress, I figured some blood work might be a good idea. A television broadcasted the news in a corner. I couldn’t see the images. But I heard an item on Israel come up and tried to listen in.
The sirens cut through the waiting room. Rocket alarm. From Jerusalem delivered straight to my GP’s office in the Netherlands. I cringed and knew: I do not have to seek shelter.
But inside, I did. I tried to hide.
Almost three thousand miles away I hid for a rocket that would never reach me. Or hurt me. And I am pretty sure none of the rockets from Gaza will hurt me after going back to Jerusalem, either. There hasn’t been even one rocket found coming from Gaza that has a war head on it. There is not a lot to be afraid of.
But still, I am.