On Tuesday I posted a shorter version of this story on Facebook. In addition to the many satisfying responses I have received, I was urged to turn the piece into a blog, because “this is blog material.”
A day earlier I called an unfamiliar Israeli number from where someone tried to reach me twice during the weekend. To my surprise, the person on the other end was a 75-year-old woman name Nurit, whose first husband fell in an Israeli military action in 1964. She read my new book and called the publisher for my telephone number. She had to talk to me she said, because suddenly, after all those years, someone wrote her story. She too was a 23-year-old military widow. Unlike me, she wasn’t taken to see her husband, though she wanted to. She was better off, I told her. It’s bad enough to be told that your husband is dead. It’s much worse to see his destroyed face and body and hear his last choking breaths; to scream from the bottom of your lungs that the person you were looking at and couldn’t recognize was not your husband; to be haunted by that horrible sight for the rest of your life.
Like me, she has built a new life for herself. She is blessed with a loving husband, four children and eight grand children. She had borrowed the book from the library and then ran to buy it as a gift to her husband, so he'll understand what she could never put in words. And he did.
In spite of the painful subject matter, it was an elating long conversation. It reminded me of the many phone calls I received in 1968 from Israeli war widows of all ages, when I fought the government's decision at the time to end monthly death compensations to childless war widows. None of the women was interested in joining the fight. Instead they sought my emotional support after they had read in a woman’s magazine an article about my fight. Nurit was not one of the women who called me. Emotionally spent she did what the government suggested childless war widows do: She moved back with her parents and siblings.
Our conversation reminded me too of the heartrending stories I heard in 1995-6, when I interviewed 33 Israeli woman bereaved by war and terrorism. As my post doctorate project, unfortunately, it was published only as an article and a book chapter, so their evocative tales were not yet heard. I hope they find voice in mine. And I hope that like Nurit, they too call. I'm still listening.
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