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Bear Witness

I changed my Facebook profile image. Updated is the term, as if it's somehow new. Which part changed? My Jewish identity? That I am taking a stand?


I refuse to participate in social media conversations. A former colleague and current Facebook 'friend' posts at least weekly, but sometimes, daily, about Gaza. The images, numbers, posts, are the same type of mainstream sound bite, she and I would have, probably still do, agree don’t tell a balanced story. Mostly. Maybe? The ‘shares’ do not invite conversation.


My sister-in-law messages me, “How are you?” This question is hard to answer. Still, I return the question.

And question the ‘description’. Hard. Hard? In this case, it is not the sensory, edges and stiffness of objects. I can feel this hardness in its shift and pressure. Another voice is in my head. It instructs. Move underneath the bar. Inhale. Gather the weight across your shoulders. Step back. Plant your feet. Inhale again. Brace. Lower. Hover at the imaginary line that makes it count. Press your knees out. Disperse the push. When necessary, fight for it. The best thing about lifting weight is that it's over quickly. To do it right, you need to use momentum and rest in strategic places. You smile when the number goes higher.


What feels hard is everything around the object that I need to do to hold the weight. It is much harder to bear the weight.

On my phone, I have few apps. One is for the gym. What’s App is another. I hold my breath and check for blue check marks in my messages. Last Sunday, I called my family. My brother answered. I watched and listened while he and his wife straightened my five-year-old nephew's room. They are not sheltered in the mamad. They are cleaning it.


Off the corner of the screen a light, round object moved. It's large. "What's that?" I asked.

"A tent."

"Why does he have a tent on his bed?"

"It's the only way he feels safe. He sleeps in it."


Without moving, I sink.


My dog drags me across the folded, brushed covered fence line. Out of the corner of my eye, a soft brown something flips. I squint. I identify the rings. The tail and half the body flips. Something's wrong. How wrong? After all, it is in the field and not the road. The movement continues. I urge my dog in a giant arch. My desire for its pain to stop collides with the reality that I can do nothing without endangering myself.


I consider asking my dad to return to shoot it. I know he’s done that before.

“I wouldn’t like it, but I could,” he usually responds.

“I don’t know how.”

“It’s harder. To have to look them in the eye. I say a prayer.”


I lower slowly.


My dog drags me to a crumpled bit of fence. The stiff body of a large, but likely once cared for dog awkwardly appears. I tug him away. I convince myself that the animal must be dead because she didn't move. What if the reason we walked that day was to save her? Before I leave for work, I beg my dad to return to the spot, to reassure me that there was nothing left to do. He confirms the dog is in fact dead, long ago dead, he determines from the matted hair. My dog drags me back the next morning. When I won’t let him close enough, he changes course, settling on the dog’s collar tossed several feet away. There is no tag, and yet, this dog was claimed, loved. Now beyond pain, but nameless. What if the reason we walked that way was only so we could stop his family's pain of wondering?


I hold my position.


Witness


In 2019, I wrote a monthly series: Witness to a Year. It was my own web spun from the initial content and connections posed by Ariel Burger in his book Witness: Lessons from Eli Wiesel's Classroom. When I wrote those blog posts, I had felt as if I was doing something. I was connecting to my life, reading more books, having conversations.

These days, that is what I am doing. Every day, I inhale. Every day, I brace. I want to lift the weight, quickly, set it down and forget. I want war to be over, quickly. Except, thousands of miles from harm, I cannot bear to wait. I want pain to be over, quickly. I don’t know what happened before the dog on the fence line curled its head across its paw. This weight is another type to bear,

Witness

I inhale.


My friend’s posts continue. Without balanced voices. My cousin posts about the dog. Without careful language. Both set a tone. I wait. I watch. I steady under the weight.


Witness

I brace.


Harsh comments. Judgements. Perspectives without details. The story is crafted. After the dog’s owners are found I ask my cousin to take the post down. Its contents. Its comments. It’s hard to bear


Witness.


It's not enough.

And its my weight.

No more no less.

These are not my stories to tell.


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