Dancing with our stories

In parallel


"Other people don't know what it's like," someone said to me the other day. "Walking around with constant awareness of it all. Glued to my screen. I close my office door so I can cry. And most people here don't even know. The only people who seem to get it are people who have family there too."

I've had that conversation so many times. Most often, with Jews. I'm a rabbi, I serve a Jewish community, there's no surprise there. But I've had this conversation also with people who have beloveds in Gaza or the West Bank. Two diaspora communities carrying grief in parallel. 

Sorrow is not zero-sum. "Their" trauma doesn't cancel out "ours." There is more than enough to go around. It can be simultaneously true that Jews around the world are grieving and that Palestinians and Arabs around the world are grieving, all of us broken-hearted at once.

And there's a sense that others don't "get" why we're cloaked in grief. "The world doesn't care about our suffering or our deaths" is a refrain keenly-felt both by Jews and, as Abdelrahman ElGendy notes in today's Washington Post, by Arabs. Has grief become our most common ground?

A small cause for hope came to me from Aziz Abu Sarah in a message about Meet the Peace-Makers, a series of digital events featuring "women leaders in Israel and Palestine, building the peace movement from the ground up." It takes so much vision and courage to be a peace-builder in a time of war. 

My Arabic study has slowed to a trickle. I am scattered, forgetful, unable to hold new information. Most days I just review, trying not to lose what I've learned. I do not like running. I like reading and writing also. My friend is behind the house. A tiny way of holding fast to my values.

In the words of poet Naomi Shihab Nye, "It's late but everything comes next."