This piece is part of our Wit­ness­ing series, which shares pieces from Israeli authors and authors in Israel, as well as the expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish writ­ers around the globe in the after­math of Octo­ber 7th.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

Be-hatzi Ha-lay­la

In the mid­dle of the night

God struck down 

All the firstborn

In the land of Egypt.

In the hours before,

We, the parents,

Paint­ed our door­posts with blood. 

We sent our children’s friends home.

We made sure we had water.

We found the food we would need

For the long wait.

And as we sat in the dark,

Doors and win­dows shut tight,

Wide awake,

We lis­tened to the wails 

As they rose and fell. 

We bris­tled and clenched with every noise.

And the promise of the doorposts

Rang in our ears. 

We stood helpless

While the teen 

Vom­it­ed over and over,

Anx­i­ety wrack­ing her entire body,

And qui­et­ly cleaned the sink

When she was done.

We extend­ed time limits

On cell­phones

So that they could focus on TV shows 

And not the booms that shook the building

And the keen­ing sounds outside.

And we remind­ed ourselves

Of ancient promises

And door­posts

And mid­night miracles.

And when the dan­ger had passed, 

And they final­ly slept,

Crowd­ed onto mattresses

In the tiny room,

Sur­round­ed by bot­tled water, 

And toi­let paper,

And Oreo cookies,

We sat awake. 

Because even when you’re promised


And peace,

You sit awake

And watch your chil­dren sleep.

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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