Shelter Them Beneath Thy Wings

By Gabi Kirk

Source: Ha'aretz
Source: Ha’aretz

I am getting these words down because I need to say something about that night, last week.

Jewish terrorists burned a baby in his sleep, in Palestine, in the West Bank.

And it is almost midnight in California as I find out the news, and I am crying a lot.

Maybe it’s because, as a California girl, fire really, really scares me. More than anything. Fire is the object of one of my obsessions. As in, obsessive-compulsive disorder, which for me mainly manifests itself in the form of repeated intrusive thoughts about calamity. On a weekly basis (or on bad weeks, a daily basis) I obsessively run through my fire plans in my head about what I would grab from my apartment if the alarm woke me up. My boyfriend and I would need to jump up, grab our cat, and take what we could. What could I save, what would I lose?

I think about everything that is in my home — years of journals starting at age 7.  book of T.S. Eliot poetry my grandma received as a present on her 21st birthday. hed snake skin from my pet snake who ran away. The art on the walls, the books on the shelves, my boyfriend’s musical instruments– all have a story. What was in Saad and Reham’s house, in Duma, between Nablus and Ramallah? Did they have gifts from friends, inherited furniture from their family, like we have? Did Reham wear dresses her mother wore, like I have sweaters from my mother hanging in my closet?

I don’t really talk about my obsessions or compulsions or tics because they seem, well, irrational, which they are. And then terrorists burn a child in his sleep.

And it is almost midnight in California and I will not be able to sleep.

I will not sleep because I realize that these terrorists, as the sun set the night of their attack, prayed Maariv. They affirmed G-d’s oneness and gave thanks. And they prayed Hashkiveinu. These Jewish settlers asked G-d to shelter them and allow them to see another morning. They prayed for spiritual guidance and a moral compass.

I pray Hashkiveinu, mostly the beautiful, very summer camp, Hebrew-English Jeff Klepper medley version. We simplify the translation of this line:

“v’haseir satan mil’faneinu u-mei-achareinu”

Literally, “Remove wrongdoing from before us and behind us.”

At camp we sing, “Teach us Eli wrong from right.”

And then these Jews, my people, left their homes in the night. And went through fields and over hills, from Ma’ale Ephraim to Duma. And they took gasoline and bottles and lighters and spray paint. And they destroyed the sanctity of another’s shelter. And they killed a baby in his sleep. A toddler who will not wake to see another morning. And burned his four year old brother and his young parents.

And they destroyed their own prayers.

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