Just Between Us

My Day-to-Day As An IDF Army Wife

Sara Swerdloff December 7, 2023

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I would like to give you a picture of my current day-to-day life to help Jews far away have insight, feel more connected, and understand a bit more what our experiences are like right now in Israel during the war.

Every day is so jarring, I don’t even know where to begin. I am home alone with my three children. My husband was mobilized on the devastating day of October 7. I just hung up with my husband, who called to tell me that the army is confiscating all cell phones so that information doesn’t get leaked to the other side. Today we got ambushed in Gaza, he said, our soldiers were killed, and the army wants to make sure that none of our movements can be anticipated in the future. If he had told me this a few years ago, I would have put up a fight. How on earth will I sleep for the next few weeks without being able to text, Whatsapp, or call my husband just to simply check in and make sure he’s ok?!

This past Shabbos, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about buying winter boots. When Shabbos was over, I opened my phone and noticed a bunch of advertisements for boots! I understand how dangerous phones can be, and I’m not going to give anyone a hard time about not being able to reach my husband. I would rather not sleep at night and be worried sick, than potentially cause any risk to my husband and his fellow soldiers on the front lines.

Today’s fear and angst feels different than yesterday’s emotional roller coaster, when my daughter had her 6th birthday party, and my baby learned to crawl, and their father couldn’t be there. That was a great day compared to the day I had to run up and down 2 flights of stairs carrying sleeping kids and babies into the bomb shelter every time the siren sounded to alert us of another rocket flying our way.

Maybe I should have started off by recounting the day that my neighbor was out in the field shepherding when 5 terrorists from a local village attacked him and another shepherd. That hit me hard. I was already acting as single mom for 3 weeks at that point and just needed air, some time to myself, to be able to go for a walk and not hear any whining or crying, so I got a babysitter. I showed her where the safe room was in the house, and took a book and decided to go for a walk and find a nice spot to read. Nowhere was safe anymore. I couldn’t go to any of my usual spots, since I felt too vulnerable alone in an open area, so returned home without the much needed “me time.”

I tried to brainstorm a bit of something else that I could do for myself to stay afloat and remain calm. I needed to be a safe haven for my kids even though I was living on no sleep and feeling anxious and irritable. I decided a massage might do me good. I waited over a week for an appointment when the massage therapist texted me that she had to cancel. She was trying to operate on no sleep, up all night sick to her stomach with worry about her son who’s fighting inside Gaza. She felt terrible, but she had to cancel on me. I told her not to worry, that I understood completely, and tried to focus on my blessings.

I think about my other neighbor who has her husband, 3 sons, 5 brothers and 4 brothers-in-law all fighting in the same war. At least I, as an American, only have one person to worry about!

The other day was tough. I had to answer all my kids’ questions about worst-case scenarios concerning their father, which I don’t feel comfortable putting into writing.

Every day is so different. One day I was busy buying locks for my safe room and filling it with buckets, water bottles, diapers, food, games and books after being told to be prepared to be in there for 18 hours in case of terrorist infiltration into our yishuv.

Another day, a Friday, we video-called my husband right before Shabbos to wish him a good Shabbos and he yelled at me to quickly hang up. I understood it was because he didn’t want the kids to hear the gunshots.

Laundry, dishes, bathrooms, lunches, suppers, diapers, spills, scrapes, tantrums, bathtime, bedtime, we’re on the 6th week of the war and I have a new deep empathy for single parents. My friend has a newborn to add to the mix; I can’t imagine how she’s doing it! My daughter’s teacher just had a baby this week — and I have no idea how she’s doing this alone. Baruch Hashem we aren’t hostages! I guess I’m pretty well off!

For more articles like this one see here: Am Yisrael Chai