Author: Dorit Sasson
Dorit Sasson is an EFL teacher who has lived in Israel since 1990. She is in the process of writing a novel drawing on her experiences as a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces. Writing is the one thing that comes most peacefully to her.
The month of March is here, and with it comes my yearly walk when I greet spring. Actually, this is the third time I have walked to the waterfall. The fields are green, full of crocuses and daffodils. The almond flowers are in bloom, with their small pink and peach buds. This is the third time this week I have walked this way, past the kibbutz cemetery.
It has been almost eight months, now, since that terrible, second Israeli-Lebanese war. I can still hear the sounds of the long procession of army tanks returning from Lebanon.
We could hardly believe it. The real raw feeling that a refugee waits for: the sight of home. And the real guaranteed sight, not the virtual one of the Internet or a two-day thing or a two-week thing. Yes, were we sure ... yes, the kibbutz was still standing. Except for dozens of destroyed black fields from the rockets from the Gome Junction, it seemed like a miracle. There it was—the kibbutz. Yes, let's clean the car, the muck of our travels, the sand from the beach. Let's take out the branches stuck in the smallest places imaginable from our car. Yes, let's go back to living.
The opposite road that we were on was empty. Unbelievable. Is this our price for being able to finally go home? A clear road? There are still those who haven't returned to the North. Some returned last night. Is it finally okay to go home, now? Haim, my husband, said yes. The talk of routine quickly filled the car: Let's start to look for a job and prepare for the upcoming school year. Will the school year start as planned? But first things first. Let's put our son in the babyhouse. He needs to see his friends. His caretakers. His bed.
Beyond the returning army vehicles we saw on the road, there were those reservists still there in that place called Lebanon, including my brother-in- law. Each one has his or her tale to tell. I will never understand that.
But the taste of routine the day we returned home was wonderful. It was that inexplicable feeling almost surreal and then totally unreal—sorting laundry into piles, cleaning the house, putting Ivry in the babyhouse, preparing lunch, unpacking those miles of travels, and living in other peoples' houses whose hearts soared to the ceiling. The sight of people filling the kibbutz was heartwarming. Slowly, our house was revived. Nothing could feel that good. I remember thinking: Am I actually cleaning the floors? Will this floor still stand tomorrow? Nothing in my whole life prepared me for thirty-four days of living as a refugee.
Yes, we were all refugees.
Two of my students I taught in high school died in this war, along with many others. One reads about them in the newspaper on a train on the way to Tel Aviv, or back to Zickron Ya'acov, and that's how I found out. They were only nineteen years old, just at the beginning of their lives. They will be added to the long list of soldiers to be mentioned on Memorial Day next year. I will wait probably twenty minutes to hear their names at the ceremony at school, and twenty hours to see their names on television, which will probably last for five seconds. This war went on thirty-four days ... thirty-four days too long.
I remember now again.
It took thirty-four days to finally take out dirty socks, happy that now I see them in my own home when I wake up in the morning. The sand that fell out of our suitcase has long been swept. I think of those families who lost a son or daughter. For them, it isn't a sock that will replace their spirit.
Was this war worth it? Was it worth burnt fields, dead fish, abandoned animals, wounded soldiers, dead soldiers? Everybody says Israel won the war, but the real objective, in my opinion, wasn't accomplished. The political agenda doesn't provide any solutions for peace, only a seemingly cooperative Band-Aid.
Looking at the waterfall for the final time that evening, I remember that my husband and son are waiting for me to come back for dinner, and I take the short route home.