Bright Crayons in Dark Times

Bright Crayons in Dark Times

My two-year-old daughter cannot be described better than a vessel of light. Her smile is vibrant, eyes shining, jumping up and down and clapping from the smallest joy. She wakes me up in the morning with her hand in my face saying “look mommy, I love you!”

During the day she goes out to spend time with other children at her preschool. A group of 20 children around her age, laughing and singing, enjoying the mere pleasure of being alive. 

We parents are all on a group WhatsApp chat where we see pictures of our children smelling flowers, holding small hands, and having fun with vibrantly colored toys and games. 

There’s something else about my daughter. The second thing she talks about in the morning: Her daddy. Her beloved daddy! The man who throws her gleefully in the air and chases her laughing at the park and reads her stories before bed. When she hears him unlocking the front door she shrieks with excitement and hides her face laughing, waiting for him to come in and pretend not to see her until she moves her hands aside and runs into his arms. 

I often watch the other children picked up from school by their daddies. 

The daddies are the strength of our homes. The loving presence at dinnertime. The kiss on the knee after a fall. 

This morning when school began, I got a message on the group chat. I excitedly opened it, wondering if my sweet daughter’s face would be in the picture this time. 

But no picture was sent. Instead, a message from the teacher. 

“We join in the anguish of (two children’s names) in the death of their fathers.” 

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. 

These children are two-years-old. 

My breath caught in my throat and chills ran down my body. My vision went blurry and I wasn’t sure whether I would pass out or cry. 

2 out of 20. That’s 10%. 10% of my daughter’s preschool class had been orphaned in the day and a half since they’d last seen each other. 

Words cannot describe the horror I felt, nor the shock I continue to feel. 

I went and relayed the news to my husband, my living husband, something these women no longer have. He put his face in his hands, not moving, breathing heavily, unsure how to think or what to say. 

He looked up with such pain in his eyes, pain backed by determination and a sense of responsibility. He told me about his mission, his job, what he’s going to do for our people, for these children, for the world. 

His job isn’t to serve in the army. He has no military training nor a gun to draw. 

But his job is still essential to the continuation of our existence as a family and a nation. 

His job is to pray and learn Torah in the merit of our people, those living and those whose lives have been lost. His job is to give strength to those around us who are suffering in ways we can’t imagine. His job is to take whatever opportunities are sent his way to help families like those of the children in our school. 

He knows his mission and he takes it seriously. 

Shortly after we heard the terrible news, he left for the synagogue, to do his part for our soldiers, for our hostages, for our families that have been torn apart. 

He’ll stay there for hours, and I’ll wait here with the luxury of knowing he’ll be coming back home. 

I sit here on the couch in my apartment. The window looks out over both Jewish and Arab villages amongst the green mountains of Judea. In the distance, Jerusalem. 

I sit here in the quiet and hold the pain of these two families, and the many hundreds more. 

I pray with tears in my eyes for the final redemption, for the days when we will know no more sorrow, for the return of the souls we’ve lost during this war and all the others. 

The group chat is once again filled with pictures of bright smiling faces. Happy go lucky children coloring pictures with vibrantly colored crayons to send to our brave soldiers who continue to fight. 

It’s as though life moves on. 

As if life could move on. 

May their memories live on.

Batsheva Hermon lives in the rolling hills of Judea, and eagerly awaits the day her children will be able to run about them freely, without fear.

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