Anyone who has read at least some of my posts knows that for quite a long while I have been grappling with concepts of time, space, memory. Part of these constructs must include for me the dissonance of having three distinctly separate, yet nevertheless merging, identities. The South African me, the Israeli me, and the American me.
This morning I received an e-mail from a Yom Kipur war widow. She addressed it to Israeli war widows stating that she is writing a book on the sadly ongoing effects of the Israel Wars from a women's perspective. She is interested in knowing how we were told of what had happened, and how it impacted our lives. She also is interested to hear how we were affected by our new status of being 'war widows' and how this aspect impacted society's response to us.
I have written about this in some form or another, whether it is in journals, or essays, or books, over the many years since.
Now I realise that at first I was too young and too shocked to fully absorb the affects of the war. Mercifully, I feel, a shock absorbing buffer surrounds us. With the wisdom of hindsight I can now see how the war itself, and the shock of being widowed, has affected my every decision, whether consciously or subconsciously, since.
Even receiving the e-mail this morning has thrown me out of my routine, such as it is. It sent me whirling into the realms of memory and remembrances; of the places I have since lived in my life, of the work I have done, of decisions I have made or not made, such as buying a home. The very idea of that kind of permanence scares me. Since coming to America 36 years ago !!!!!!! I have lived with the ongoing ambivalence of not knowing whether I will live in America, or go back to Israel. An indecision that is with me even to this day, this moment, in fact. How can I put down roots anywhere? What does that even mean for me? to put down roots?
We lived on a kibbutz. The first few years after the war I was really supported by the community. In fact, I still am. They are the only ones who truly can comprehend those dreadful times After a few years, I began to feel that there is a stigma attached to being a war widow. Society wants the woman to remain faithful to her hero husband who died defending the state. It is frowned upon if she begins a new relationship - for a few years at least. Then after a few years it is suggested that she must form a new relationship. These rules of appropriate conduct are only implied of course, not stated or written, but they begin to impact one's life.
After a few years I felt that I had to get out of the kibbutz. And I did, I left Israel. As soon as I left I felt free, I could just be me, Nesta, not "Nesta the war widow" or "Nesta of Rafi, who was killed." . I could have a life of my own, noone knew, or would even understand what had happened to me. At first this felt liberating, but later it began to be alienating. It is comforting for me to return to Israel and to be with those who know and understand, even if we do not speak about it.
This year in October it will be 43 years since the war, and its effects still reverberate in my life, and in the lives of everyone in Israel, even for those for whom now it is yet another war in the history book of wars.