“My soul is yearning to be elsewhere, not rushing from Beer Sheba to Jerusalem under enemy fire, trying to make a living.
What would happen if I voluntarily gave up family life and went to live a life of contemplation on a quiet mountaintop somewhere? Would I lose the fear of losing them [my children], and thereby be free of fear?”—June Leavitt (p. 157)
[As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ll be attending A Room of Her Own Foundation’s August Women’s Writing Retreat (still accepting applications: http://www.aroomofherownfoundation.org/retreat_2011.php ). AROHO (www.aroomofherownfoundation.org/ ) offers hands on networking support to women writers--from serious grant support (check out their Gift of Freedom Award)—to sponsoring a number of writing contests and retreat offerings throughout the year. I continue my look here at books written by AROHO 2011 retreat participants.]
In Storm of Terror, A Hebron Mother’s Diary, ex-American June Leavitt presents a powerful account of raising her five children in Kiriat Arba, Hebron. Leavitt’s diary opens in September 2000 and answers a question raised by Leavitt’s brother after the fall of the Twin Towers: “How is it humanly possible to live with terrorism day in and day out…” As I read, I felt intensely for Leavitt: raising five children, teaching, writing, and attempting to keep faith alive in her heart—all while surviving random suicide bombings and other forms of ceaseless violence.
Many of Leavitt’s entries include paragraphs rife with loss listing the casualties of neighbors, acquaintances and loved ones (Standing beside Chaya is Rivka, the grandmother of the baby Shalhevet who was slain as her mother pushed her down the steet in her stroller. Rivka is the wife of Avrahan who, on his was way to the Cave years before, was jumped by three Arabs who crushed his skull and mouth with an ax. She is the mother of twin girls: Oriah whose baby Shalhevet was shot to death..etc (p. 123))—a painful, incessant barrage to withstand as a reader, but absolutely necessary—Leavitt drives the point home that desperation and fear pervade the territory, that the range of victims runs from infants to former kindred-turned-enemy.
Leavitt addresses the disturbing onset of female participation in suicide bombing: The fact that a woman was used for a suicide mission represents a new phase in terror, a departure from the few laws that keep a space of sanity around our lives” and draws a parallel to what the American soldiers experienced in Vietnam when they realized that every peasant, man or woman, was a potential enemy (p. 172).” Leavitt later adds, the homicidal martyrdom of women signals something truly frightening—violation of the eternal law that the female brings forth life (p. 174).
Balancing the look at terrorism is Leavitt’s quiet contemplation of her relationship to motherhood, faith, the political forces at work, and the personal growth one can gain by teaching students in a divided territory. Ultimately, I came away from the book with a sense of the strength of the bond between the members of Leavitt’s family as well as an understanding of their love for the land they called home (wracked as that land remains, so full of longstanding challenges). And moved by Leavitt’s ability to remain calm (not just on behalf of her children and husband, but within herself—stayed able to hear herself “think”), to call up the strength to proceed, to do “the next right thing,” which, I believe, provides ample evidence of a larger, eternal, spiritual framework in place for all of us to access.