War in Pieces

Iron Dome surface-to-air missiles.

Iron Dome surface-to-air missiles.

During what has come to be known as the First Gulf War in 1991, Iraq bombarded Israel with Scuds (tactical ballistic missiles) that were believed to be armed with poison gas. The Israeli population was equipped with emergency kits that included a gas mask and filter and an atropine syringe. When the air raid sirens sounded, we were to put on the gas masks and go into a hermetically sealed room, sealing the door after we entered. It was terrifying.

At that time I was recovering from spine surgery related to my injury in the bus bombing. I was in pain and moved with great difficulty. A caregiver came to my home every morning to help me bathe and fix my breakfast, and I spent most of the day in a wheelchair. I couldn’t raise my arms high enough to put on the gas mask by myself; I was dependent on the person I lived with to help me with the mask and to seal the room whenever the sirens went off. I’ve lived through some very frightening times, but this was among the scariest.

That was twenty-three years ago and I don’t often think about it any more. I no longer have flashbacks or intrusive memories, not for many years. So I was surprised by the severity of my anxiety these days when the Red Alert sirens sound, giving Jerusalemites about a minute and a half to take shelter before a rocket attack.

There are no longer those fears, ultimately proved baseless, of gas attacks, so we don’t have to put on our masks, but the rockets are very real. There is a bomb shelter just a few meters beyond my garden gate, but there is no way on God’s green earth that I could get out of my chair or bed, out the door, go along the path to the gate, unlock the gate, and go down to the corner to the bomb shelter in 90 seconds.

It’s not spine surgery this time, but the ravages of cancer and cancer treatment that impede me. The pain (always the pain), the balance issues, the neuropathy… It took several days of sitting with my anxiety and reaching out for help to get through it before I realized that in my inner world I was tapping into that old anxiety from the Gulf War and attaching it to the anxiety of the bombings in the present. Having reached that realization, I was not surprised to find that the level of my anxiety had greatly decreased.

I was now able to remember that Jerusalem is a relatively low-priority target, especially the part of the city where I live. I was able to remember that my old stone house has survived war after war for well over a hundred years. I was able to remember that the chances of a direct hit on my house are tiny.

I am far from blithely insouciant, but reality has come back to my inner world. When the siren sounds I go to a little corner that is relatively safe. I bring my iPad (with links to my medical and other personal document files in Dropbox), my telephone, my week’s meds, a pillow to sit on. I feel anxious, but also confidence that I’ve done everything I can and it’s out of my hands. I pray. Sometimes I put up a Facebook status, but now that I’m calmer I’m not writing it in all caps anymore. I no longer live with constant generalized anxiety, and I’ve even started sleeping again at night.

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26 Responses

  1. Maxine D says:

    Oh Knots, I have been wondering how you are, and praying for you and those around you. It is an horrible situation 🙁 When will mankind learn that war solves nothing….
    Blessings and prayers

  2. Helen says:

    When I read the papers I think of you.. You have made what I read very real.. Stay safe.. There are somethings we just have no control over but the way we think about it..

    • Knot Telling says:

      That is something that guides my life, Helen. I can always change my attitude when I can’t change a situation. Not always quick or easy, but it always works.

  3. Caroline says:

    I hadn’t connected in my head where you are with what is going on. I just read the three parts on the bus bombing. It sounds like an almost surreal experience. I love being a cancer patient where one of the first things to grab is a pill box. Stay safe.

    • Knot Telling says:

      The bus bombing felt surreal, exactly that.

      Yes, having cancer changes all kinds of priorities, including the “what would you save from a burning house” one.

      Thanks for commenting, Caroline.

  4. mae says:

    I just read about your experience of the bus bombing. Oh, that would haunt me too for years to come. Keep yourself safe.

  5. With all that has been going on, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about you. In the US it is hard for us to imagine the ever-present, life threatening challenges faced by those in your region. You have tremendous strength and I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire you. Know that you are in my thoughts.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you, CJ, but I don’t have much strength at all. When there is no other choice, keeping on is just what you do – as all of us with mbc know.

  6. Lisa says:

    Thank you for the update. I have been concerned about you and praying constantly for you.

  7. Diane says:

    Knot, war is a nasty three letter word, And I’m sorry you are caught in the middle of it. May your prayers be answered. ~D

  8. Juliet says:

    I hope that things will calm down again – and that the ongoing conflict will be resolved soon too. It must be horrible to live in constant danger. My thoughts are with you.

    • Knot Telling says:

      It’s not really constant. Coming to grips with that reality is part of what helped me calm down.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Juliet.

  9. I am happy you have been able to deal with the anxiety. I’m not sure I’d be able to. I’m sending my prayers and thoughts your way. May you always find that safe little corner somewhere.

  10. Paula Sanders says:

    It has been on tv here in the US. I always think of you and I’m praying for your safety. Also Praying it will be over soon.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks so much, Paula. Isn’t it great how meeting people on Facebook makes distant events seem closer? The Internet really has made the world smaller.

  11. Be well, dear Knot. Be at peace. My thoughts are with you.

  12. Jennie says:

    And now multiply your situation by thousands of others with a healthier body but nevertheless dealing with mobility issues, with PTSD, with nowhere to go, no internet to communicate with the outside world, anxiety about family and friends …. and it’s a wonder that the population of Israel gets up every day and carries on rationally! Praying for you, praying for Israel.

    • Knot Telling says:

      And multiply it also by the thousands in Gaza who suffer from multiple directions, not least the aerial bombings, loss of homes, loss of friends and family, poor medical care, decreasing food supplies…
      It is so hard these days to be a lover of my country while despising the government’s decisions.

  13. dear Knot,

    I am glad that you are comforted by the lessening of past anxieties. and I hope you can FEEL all the love, prayers, caring, and concern being sent your way from us who adore you. I hold you and your Jerusalem along with those who are suffering in Gaza close to my heart, hoping for peace and humanity to be restored.

    much love,

    Karen xoxo

  14. Elizabeth J. says:

    Stay safe, dear friend. Praying for you and Israel, and for peace.

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