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Danita and Michel Aziza


by Danita Aziza, March 16, 2011

When life goes out of control, as it most certainly has lately, it is hard to not be affected by it in some way.

A friend came to my house last Sunday morning just after we learned of the terrible tragedy in Itamar, Israel where a family was brutally murdered in their sleep.  Moments prior to coming to my house, my friend explained, she was sitting in the local café observing those around her. Everyone knew of what had taken place Friday evening and yet people were carrying on, or so it seemed, drinking their coffee, chatting and taking in the pleasantness of the day. We both agreed that it seemed strange to carry on as before when life had been so devastatingly altered for others. Are we meant to just continue on with our day when we learn of someone’s tragedy, when we witness on television the magnitude of the devastation from the earthquake in Japan, when we think of the pain of loss that so many must endure?.I’m not sure how to grapple with being affected, and sometimes very deeply, by events around me, while at the same time not to allow myself to be consumed by them or diminish the joy that one is supposed to feel in life.

Today in Israel, at 11:00, there was five minutes of silence designated to think about the soldier, Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas somewhere in Gaza since he was captured on June 25, 2006.  Michel called to remind me and suggested that I go with Benji to the center of the town to stand with others in thought.  I ran to get Benji and told him we have to go to observe five minutes of silence for Gilad.  He responded, “5 minutes, that’s a long time”.  Without hesitation I responded, “No Benji it’s a long time for him…almost five years.  Five minutes for us is nothing”. He wasn’t being insensitive, but merely comparing five minutes to the silence we normally observe for a minute or two.  Somehow observing beyond the norm is fitting, and forces us to see that there is nothing routine or normal about the suffering that Gilad Shalit is enduring in a cellar somewhere in Gaza or the pain that his mother and father are living with while camped outside the Prime Minister’s residence for months on end in an effort to force political action to have him freed.

I sat parked at the side of the street at exactly 11:00 thinking of the soldier, his parents, praying for his safe return with my son, soon to be a soldier himself, sitting in the passenger seat beside me.  The five minutes ended, I started my car and drove back into life as I know it.  But I didn’t feel right.  I don’t feel that our responsibility for other people’s suffering ends with just acknowledgement with sadness, with contemplation.  I think our responsibility needs to extend to action in some way, because it is not nearly enough just to feel.  If we all just felt, then how would we be able to go about helping to repair or to correct or to try to make things right.

Our lives have become so full, so hectic and so much to manage that many of us have little time to extend ourselves beyond just feeling.  When tragedy strikes, as it seems to do at alarming rate these days, it is difficult to figure out how to respond in a manner that does not upset the rhythm of our lives.  We have a heavy load without any of life’s derailments and we have to work hard at managing our emotions and our stress just with what affects us individually not to mention outside ourselves, family or community.  I have chosen as of late, not to watch the news too much or read the paper on a daily basis, because I internalize too much and feel too much, but I think that is wrong.  I can go and stand for five minutes and think about someone else’s pain or send a cheque for relief efforts in Japan, but I somehow feel that my obligation should not end there.

Oftentimes I think of the State of Israel and how it was developed by so many who had suffered unbearable tragedy and loss. Had their pain merely been bandaged with emotion and had action been absent, then I’m not sure our Country would be all that it is today.  If people simply gave up and succumbed to fear and not mustered strength and determination then Israelis couldn’t possibly continue to live their lives here raising children, developing businesses and continuously repairing and rebuilding nature, structures and lives.  Perhaps it is the manner in which we take action that not only helps others but, in the process, helps us to not merely sit and stew about the state of the world, but find a proper and productive channel for our thoughts and emotions.

While I have no control whether a tsunami or earthquake should strike somewhere in the world, but I can be more conscience of what I can do to make the environment a little more stable and I can send emails to the people who I know in Japan to see if they are alright or if there is anything I can do for them.  I can participate in the efforts to raise money for relief efforts and pay attention to calls for assistance and act on them.

I can surely do more than stand for five minutes to think about Gilad Shalit and his family.  I can learn more about him and the actions that are being taken to bring about his release and I can make the drive to Jerusalem to visit his parents and shake their hand and tell them I feel for their pain and I admire all that they do to simply not just be consumed by their feelings of anger, worry and frustration.

When I am confused as to whether I should just feel and then slide back into my life and  when I feel that I simply can’t bear to worry about anything else, I need to figure out how I can act and how I can contribute in some positive way to repairing or helping that which so desperately is in need of repair or assistance.  Perhaps going beyond just feeling is not just a responsibility to others, but a responsibility to myself as well, a type of therapy for contending with the realities of a world that isn’t just quite right….at least not, right now.



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