The Unbearable Lightness of Being Away – Reblogged


July 11, 2014 by Katia

I wrote this post in November 2012 when my hometown was targeted by Hamas missiles. If you are emotionally invested in this subject, I ask that you read the post in its entirety, or at least the last paragraph, to realize that I support the end of violence on both sides. I’m appalled by what’s going on in Gaza, but cannot not feel for my pro-peace friends in Tel-Aviv and other Israeli cities.


This is not a political post. I am not a self appointed spokesperson for my country and do not intend to argue politics. What I set out to do here is to talk about feelings and what I know best is my own. I would also like to talk about situations that my friends and family face to illustrate what it is like to be under fire. And if anyone wants to use my words against me to say that this is what the other side feels like most of the time, or thst it must be a nice luxury to get a warning in the form of sirens, you are preaching to the choir, I agree with you.

This is my first war away from home. Us “war veterans” have our own clichés. One of them states “it looks much scarier from the outside than it actually is”. I don’t know about that, both situations have their moments. On the outside you don’t hear the siren but then again on the outside you DON’T hear the siren.

The sound of the siren is a terrifying one. The sound of sirens is a wailing promise of something wicked this way comes.

And then there is not hearing the sound of the sirens that sound off in the city you’ve spent most of your life in, the city you identify yourself with. It feels unnatural not knowing that that just happened. And again, and again and again. And when you’re away, watching from the outside, another emotion creeps in, an emotion at times just as strong and overwhelming as the fear and concern for your loved ones, a sense of estrangement. Isolation. That thing that immigrants work so hard to suppress. It feels unnatural to not have heard the siren that sounded off in the city I’ve spent most of my life in- MY city, to not know if we’re ok and by we I mean my family, my city. It feels weird to be cut off from the routine that follows, the one that is so predictable and well known to me – the endless discourse and the 24 hour news updates, the phone calls from concerned friends overseas. And it’s a whole different kind of helplessness. A guilty one.

And now I become the concerned caller.

Here’s another cliché for you followed by a gross generalization. We call Tel-Aviv the city that never sleeps. Us Tel-Avivians are laid back when it comes to major life threats, we sweat the small stuff and our answer to everything is eat more, drink more, party more. Tel-Aviv is notorious throughout the rest of the country for its decadent partying ways. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to hear yesterday when I called my mom after the attack that she is not in the bomb shelter and moreover doesn’t seem to understand why you would need to be in one, I’ve learned from her and other calls I’ve made that cars are running, that there are people on the streets and noticed that some of my friends are posting Facebook updates from the restaurants they are in. This is how we roll and that is what makes us who we are.

But each story has two sides even if that story is being told by the same person. My mom wasn’t worried, but even if she was she couldn’t possibly walk down 6 flights of stairs in a minute and a half with my 91 year old grandmother so they stayed in the apartment instead of hiding in the bomb shelter. And she wasn’t worried for herself, she tells me the next day, but it’s so uncomfortable, she chooses this word, to know that you are in charge of someone else’s safety, my grandma, and you don’t know if you’ll be able to protect them. And I call my best friend back home and she tells me she was scared, because her daughter was with her father today and there was no phone service when the missile fell and when she finally spoke to her, her daughter was anxious and all my friend wants to do as a mother is to hold her hand. And on the next day I call her after another attack and she tells me how she and her daughter were surprised by the siren while in their car and my friend left the car in the middle of the road and ran with her 9 year old to hide under a building as they are instructed to do. This is some crazy movie shit stuff, she tells me.

I write this blog about my two boys. I try to keep it light hearted. It’s a blog about the funny things my two boys do. The reason I am not raising these two boys in Israel is because I’m a coward. I am driven by fear. The world’s biggest mama’s girl uprooted herself and moved continents overcoming grief over the loss of a familiar reality and guilt and shame toward her family, friends and country so that her future boys would not serve in the military. It’s a shameful thing to admit in a country that so many died protecting.

And then there is this.

I get off the phone and am off to daycare to pick up my son and there is this. On a day like this it feels so right and so wrong at the same time. I couldn’t have been happier for my sons who are raised in this pastoral atmosphere and at the same time everything around me screams on a day like this “you are not there!”, the piles of yellowing leaves on the ground, the chilly November air, the language spoken in a cheerful  stress-free tone and the chirp of unfamiliar birds.

As I am writing this post I hear the sirens live. My husband is talking to his mother on the phone and she is on speaker with the grandchildren. In a very calm but rushed tone she tells us she has to go. As for us? It’s a weekend and we’re supposed to take the children to a pioneers village today for some good time. Do we go? Do we stay home for solidarity? The unbearable lightness of being away.

** Dedicated to my family and friends in Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Rishon, Ramleh, Ness-Ziona, Jerusalem, Kiryat Ono and to the innocent victims and people of Gaza. I pray for the end of this and no more casualties on the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

20 thoughts on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Away – Reblogged

  1. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    Katia, this is incredibly gorgeous and war of all kinds makes me unbelievably sad. My husband was in the US Army for 20 years, and is still working for DOD, and I’m telling you now – I don’t want my son in the army. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but the fact is, I’m naive and simple life loving and do not understand the hate and the need to kill over rights, although I DO understand because holycrap, it’s how people gain independence under oppressive controlling governments and other people and ugh – I’m really dumb when it comes to all of the stuff happening in the world – mostly on purpose until I feel guilty for not knowing and then find out.
    Your writing about all of the emotions and experiences is beautiful and terrifying and incredible. I’m proud to have you as a friend who speaks her voice and is able to run with her boys in the pasture while not hearing the sirens. Hugs to you and prayers and hope for your family and friends who are waiting for sirens. xoxox

  2. Roshni says:

    No more casualties please!!
    *sigh* Just read Manal’s post about the same thing from the other side! No one wants this to continue!! And, I wonder whether anyone really knows why they are fighting any more!!

  3. Jen says:

    This is really beautiful. And I get it, without really getting it. My mom lived there through another war, a similar war….she does not feel guilty for leaving, she feels safe.
    It’s okay to want your boys to live without that underlying fear.
    You are a good mom.

    • Katia says:

      “she does not feel guilty for leaving, she feels safe.” I kept coming back to your comment in my head today and especially to that part. Thank you so much for reading, taking the time to comment and for speaking from the heart.

      • Judah First says:

        Nor should you feel guilty for leaving, for doing what is best for your children. When love for country exceeds love for family, that’s when terrorism thrives, in my opinion. Although I am very thankful for my country, I do not love it enough to lay down my life for it (my husband is in the Army so I am only speaking personally). My family will always come first.

        Praying for Peace,

      • Katia says:

        I read your comment this morning but I was with both my boys all day today so it took awhile to get back to you but the comment stayed with me. All day. You nailed it. I completely agree with the distinction you make between loving your family vs. country. I didn’t know your husband was in the military. Wishing you safety always and thank you so so so much for keeping my family in your thoughts!

  4. I have goosebumps. Thank you for sharing your voice.

  5. This is so beautifully written. My mother’s been living in downtown Cairo for the last 6 years and I can strongly relate to being the one who’s not there and only able to wait anxiously for contact. I hope that all of yours stay safe and protected.

    • Katia says:

      I appreciate this so much, thank you for your kind words! We have friends from Egypt here in Toronto. I can relate to what you and your family are experiencing. Peace and safety to everyone!

  6. Dana says:

    I can’t even imagine. I have friends whose teenagers are in Israel right now. Each story does have two sides, and I appreciate you telling yours. Keeping your family in my prayers, Katia. May they stay safe and may peace in the region become a reality.

    • Katia says:

      Your friends must be so worried. Mostly nothing happens in Israel but there were some serious injuries. I’d be so worried as a parent. As a daughter, grand daughter and friend I am just sad. So sad that old and young age has to be interrupted with sirens. Thank you so so so much, my dear friend for this.

  7. green leaves says:

    As a strong well wisher of Gaza,I initially thought i would find many points in this article that i had disagree with.But the light hearted sweetness of it got me.Well written,i must say.

  8. […] of her stories. Katia’s post about her writing process is On Trees and Writing but please read The Unbearable Lightness of Being Away where she shares her feelings about the Israeli and Palestinian struggle and how it feels for her […]

    • Katia says:

      Dearest Karen, my deepest apologies for taking so long to comment. I actually read it the day you tagged me but with the craziness of getting ready for my time away from the family I just now realize I never responded!

      Heart Teller is one of the most amazing definitions to writing that I’ve come across and I can so relate to this!

      I could also relate to your writing process. I never type directly into WordPress either and I find that my posts sometimes write themselves in a matter of a couple of hours and sometimes like I’ll spend months. And I absolutely ADORE what you said about comments, probably one of the most gratifying and educational parts of writing. Thank you for agreeing to participate and for your wonderfully kind words.


  9. This was really touching. Of course we want our kids to be safe, and that is always going to be our biggest motivation. I am so saddened by the atrocities, and even more by the fact that Israel is usually painted as being the big, evil baddy. I also hope they find a peaceful end.

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