TEL AVIV – I was always political and opinionated. But rather than myth-busting fake news and rehashing the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’d like to offer a raw and emotional expression of life in Tel Aviv as a new mother over the past week.
I’ll backtrack a bit. It was the summer of 2014 and I was 25 and by and large, carefree. I was building my career, living with my sister in the center of Tel Aviv, and going out with friends several times a week. It was the summer the State of Israel went into its second war with Gaza: Operation Protective Edge. Tensions were elevated and Hamas was launching rockets to Tel Aviv.
I’d watch the nightly news with a bottle of wine and then doze off. I was already accustomed to nightly wake-up calls and running to the underground shelter in my building, half asleep, in my pajamas, and calling my parents from there to tell them we were OK. Some nights, I even stayed in bed as the sirens wailed. I was too lazy to get up. What were the chances the rocket would hit me? Even one morning on the way to work, I had to run off a bus, lay on the pavement, duck and cover during an attack. For some reason, I wasn’t fazed. I didn’t cry.
Fast forward seven years and I’m a wife and a mother to the most precious two-month-old baby boy. I have a neurotic dog who is afraid of her own shadow and reacts hysterically to even the buzzing of a fly. My parents moved to Israel to be with me. I manage the operations and team of an international consultancy in Israel. One of my team members even recently moved to Sderot, by far the town that most often falls victim to the wrath of Hamas.
I’m not going to lie. With caring for an infant, I’ve been living in my own bubble that revolves around feedings, nap schedules, tummy time, and developmental milestones. I wasn’t tuned into the news cycle and I’m embarrassed to say that this recent elevation in tensions came as a surprise to me. If my husband Barak had mentioned anything, I likely tuned it out.
But Tuesday night, I snapped back into reality. The first siren came as a shock while cooking dinner in our Tel Aviv apartment. We are quite organized, but hadn’t done a drill for this. My dog Lily barked hysterically and shook. I ran to scoop up my son Ben, who was sleeping peacefully in his bassinet, and sprinted to the stairwell. I held him tight and rocked him while surrounded by neighbors.
We waited for the sounds of the Iron Dome interceptions. I was safe, but began to cry. I was responsible for another life – a baby boy who will one day need to defend this country, sleeping in my arms amidst the chaos. I was worried about my employees and their well-being. I feared for my father, who fought in the Yom Kippur War and never thought he’d be in Israel and once again have these haunting sounds in his life. I prayed that my husband wouldn’t be called for reserve duty – not out of fear for his safety, but out of fear that I’d be left alone during this time to run with our infant and dog for safe cover.
The anxiety has persisted and become more severe as the days have passed. I’m afraid to fall asleep and risk not hearing the siren and moving my son. I’m worried that if I shower, I won’t have time to run. I’m afraid to leave the house with my baby, mindful that if there’s an attack, I’ll need to find a place to run with him or jump out of the car and cover him with my body on the side of the road.
Thankfully, the people of Israel are resilient and care for one another as their own. Sitting with neighbors in the stairwell during attacks has brought great comfort and offered a distraction. I’m most grateful, however, for the other moms I’ve met in person and virtually who understand my stress and have become an emotional solace during this time.
I solicited their help to compile some raw feelings on being a new mom during a war. Some will make you laugh. Others will bring tears to your eyes. But I hope if anything, it offers the human perspective on the conflict. And I imagine that if we polled mothers in Gaza, their responses would be similar.
1. Being a new mom during a war is mastering running to the stairwell or bomb shelter while feeding your baby (breast or bottle).
2. Being a new mom during a war is having all your neighbors see your breasts because there’s a strike every single time you’re breastfeeding. But again, you’re always breastfeeding …
3. Being a new mom during a war is having your baby sleep peacefully through all the sirens and the BOOMS and BANGS from the Iron Dome interceptions, but wake up when you sneeze or open a door.
4. Being a new mom during a war is hearing phantom cries when your baby is sleeping in addition to phantom sirens.
5. Being a new mom during a war is the ultimate form of sleep deprivation.
6. Being a new mom during a war is wearing clothes at all times and keeping diapers and wipes by the front door or in the bomb shelter just in case.
7. Being a new mom during a war is another reason not to shower.
8. Being a new mom during a war is being woken up in the middle of the night by something other than your baby.
9. Being a new mom during a war is being able to get out the door and downstairs in 90 seconds during a siren when it usually takes you hours to leave the house.
10. Being a new mom during a war is terrifying and allows you to identify with the anxiety that mothers in Southern Israel, Gaza, and conflict zones around the world feel on the daily.
Lana Osher Kfir made Aliyah to Israel from Peabody in 2010. She’s a vice president at APCO Worldwide and lives in Tel Aviv with her husband Barak, son Ben, and her dog Lily.