A barukh she'amar for Shavuot morning

One drop


"A Drop in the Ocean" by David Parker.

I talk to friends in Israel. They tell me everyone knows someone who is connected with the hostages. About the protests outside the Prime Minister's house. How the hostages are on posters everywhere, in public art pieces everywhere, how theirs have become household names even for those who didn't know them. How every baby they see reminds them of Kfir Bibas, kidnapped at 9 months, now 17 months. Some of them tell me how it feels to send a son or daughter or sibling or grandchild off to fight Hamas, knowing that some will not come home again. After eight months, no one is the same.

I read the words of friends with loved ones in Gaza. They tell me about the destruction. Buildings collapsing, tens of thousands dead, two hospitals now the sites of mass graves. The rubble, the hunger, the fear. How even the places where people had run to seek refuge don't seem to be safe anymore. When the IDF bombs a school, many don't believe the goal was taking out some number of Hamas fighters embedded within. Why would they believe the IDF or the Israeli government? They trust neither. They believe the goal is to wipe them all out, or to cause as much damage as possible.

I wake to the news that four Israeli hostages are home, rescued by the IDF. Three of them are in their twenties, kidnapped from the Nova music festival. I'm old enough that they look like kids to me. The image of Noa Argamani reuniting with her father overwhelms me with emotion. I imagine what's going through his heart and mind, seeing his daughter alive after 245 days of fearful wondering. I imagine what's going through hers. One Israeli special forces police officer died from wounds sustained in the rescue. I imagine that person's family and their grief. Does this feel "worth it," to them?

Meanwhile, at least 125 were killed in the strike on Nuseirat that enabled the rescue. Or maybe 210 dead and 400 injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Or the "Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry," in the words of Ha'aretz. (Some don't believe the IDF; others don't believe the Gaza Health Ministry.) No one seems to dispute the fact that most of those killed and injured are women and children. I read descriptions of hospital hallways teeming with the wounded. I imagine what's going through the hearts and minds of those families, and the families of the dead. Who do they blame for their grief?

Sometimes it is impossibly surreal that here and there are happening at the same time. Sometimes it's hard to see the beauty of here because we're so caught up in feeling-with them there. (Which "them," which "there"? Fill in the blank for yourself.) I don't think I know anyone who cares about Israelis or Palestinians who is okay this year, much less anyone who aspires to care about both. How to rejoice for the four who've been brought home, when hundreds of other lives ended in the process and peace seems nowhere in sight? How to taste a single drop of joy intermixed with this vast salt sea of sorrow?