Year Course Currently in My Tower

By Young Judaea

By Gabriella Stein, Year Course 2023-2024

I was sitting on the floor in my basement. I had just spent thirty minutes picking out the perfect outfit for my Barbie doll. I had the most perfect story planned out, she was gonna go to the prom and dance with the Ken doll, and by the end they would fall in love and get married. I don’t know when I blinked. But I did. And suddenly, the world is excruciatingly more complicated.

I don’t know why they don’t prepare you for it. For feeling like the world is playing against you in a really intense thumb wrestle. You go in pretty confident, you’ve got a pretty strong thumb and a killer strategy, but after you count down, you realize your thumb may not be as prepared as you may have thought. As the thumbs dance around each other a few times, you’ve faked out your opponent. Maybe they’re thinking you’re stronger than you look? Nope. The other thumb grabs you quickly. Your thumb is being pushed into your index finger. It hurts a little, but you’ve only been playing for a few seconds so you scramble back to the starting position. Now you’re nervous, you can’t get too cocky. Now you know what you’re dealing with, and you know there’s a chance you come out a failure but you’re not willing to go down without a fight. That is high school.

I had assumed since I won the thumb war (and let me tell you I’ve earned bragging rights) I wouldn’t have to keep playing such a childish game after graduation. Good thing I didn’t have enough time to give that thought too much attention. Because here I am, three months out of high school faced with a thumb that resembles a Palestinian terrorist. (No, seriously.) I write this strange metaphor for you from my room on my Gap Year program in Israel, three days after Hamas initiated the war against Israel.

Now as I mentioned, I am fresh out of high school. I was blessed with a late birthday, so I’m not even eighteen yet. To be totally honest with you, dear reader, I was not terribly good at paying attention during social studies class. It is not my fault that at the time I needed to put my mind towards the attention of my notebook where there were doodles that simply had to be drawn. My dad told me on the phone today he wished I had paid more attention, since I am sitting smack in the middle of a war zone. While I do agree, maybe it would’ve been benefical to understand truly what was happening around me, I think maybe it’s a good thing I had been doodling. Because, at age seventeen I shouldn’t really have to understand war. I should not have to expirence it firsthand. My teachers taught me to take a stand in my writing, not to waiver between different opinions. But, my opinion in this case is one with a few different perspectives. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention, maybe I should’ve plugged my ears with earbuds and blasted Copacobana and danced around the room, maybe I should’ve been advocating they teach my public school peers the truth about the debacle in the Middle East. But honestly, I’m not sure which reality I choose. Choose to understand and comprehend the magnitude of my situation? Or choose to live in ignorance? I’d continue to type, but my answer to my own question is becoming clear. Maybe my doodles could’ve been saved for later.

It’s hard. As I’ve begun to educate myself and my leaders on this program have been teaching us, it’s still hard to truly wrap my head around what is happening. I read the stories and watch the videos, but my simple mind is unable to truly comprehend the massacre I’ve been lucky enough to dodge. I’m a total outsider, living within a guarded community in the country. I am a total foreigner, living in a bubble. In a bubble I don’t know how I landed a spot in. How is it that mere miles away from me are people that are living in terror, and I am sitting wrapped in a blanket with a pillow behind my back as I type? How do you comprehend that? How could it possibly be true the things I read? There is simply no way. We live in a world where people play with dolls and dress them up, how are innocent people being kidnapped? How is it that the world I once lived in, where nothing bad ever really happened, was really an illusion? What can I do to help? But does helping mean putting myself in a dangerous position? I want to hide. But hide from what? Hide from the monsters I cannot hear or see, but I just know are there?

Imagine sitting in a protected tower. Your magical golden hair locked away, because if the wrong people were to get their hands on it, there would be nothing left of you. You have a visitor come through the secret passage into the tower. The visitor tells you there is war surrounding the tower. You believe them, because you see the terror and sorrow behind their eyes. But you cannot see it. You just know you are surrounded, but the war doesn’t really have anything directly to do with you, but if you were to get involved your magical hair would be too valuable to the soldiers and they would take you away. So all you can do is sit in your tower and pray. Pray that those who aren’t as fortunate as you are to be protected, have a way to stay alive.

Luckily, you sit in the tower with your friends. Some new friends, some you would consider to be family. You all sit together in the tower. Keeping each other busy, but still discussing the condition of the world around you. Some of your friends understand better than others. And they want out. They want out of the tower. Out of the kingdom. They want to go home to their families, living safe and sound in a far away land. (Oh, did I mention that your friends also have magical hair??? You’re all distant relatives of Rapunzel. It’s complicated, just go with it.) You know you’re safe in the tower. The fire breathing dragons that surround the place keep it pretty safe. There are even magical owls that come every once in a while to teach you and keep you company. But still, your friends want out. All you want is normalcy. You’ve only just moved into the tower. You’ve only just gotten used to the idea that you could get to enjoy a whole year of magic with your favorite people. That’s when the Palestinian thumbs started the war. They took away that feeling of relief once you were out of high school and no longer had to play anymore. You’re heartbroken the inside of your bubble is falling apart, but how could you possibly feel that way about your situation when all around the tower there is war. I could be wrong, but even if I had paid closer attention, that wouldn’t have taught me that in social studies.

I hope you’ll excuse all the metaphors and made up scenarios. They are helping me to explain. Because the reality is, there is no easy and straightforward way to explain this reality. Hence the thumbs, magical hair, and dragons. Hopefully it was easy enough to follow. If so, do you want to explain to me what you gathered? Because I’m still trying to make sense of it all.

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