למה את לא קופה?
Josepha was sixteen-years old. She had a broad face covered with
pimples, bloated from food or medication or both. Her gaze was hollow
and her body frozen and stiff.
I don't know what her exact diagnosis was, but that's not terribly
I don't remember my first day there, but the day after I was committed,
Josepha's mother approached me and said: she has always been okay. So
lovely. And industrious. And everyone loved her. All at once. She said
this for everyone to hear. Those who had already heard her, and new
patients who hadn't. Again and again.
I was nearly nineteen then. I was given red polka-dot pajamas that were
the smallest available, because I was so thin, I hadn't eaten for
Josepha had already been there for six months. Her mother was there day
and night. There were no cellular phones back then, only one telephone
at the nurses' station and a public phone in the middle of the ward.
Sometimes the phone would ring and someone or other would summon
Josepha's mother. She would gesture 'what can I do', and then someone or
other would wait a while, go back to the phone and say to Josepha's
father, 'no, we couldn't find her', or 'I don’t know what to tell you',
or 'she doesn't want to come'. And sometimes after someone or other
would come back saying 'he says to tell you you have a home, too' she
would gesture as if saying again, 'that's the way it is.' Because
Josepha's mother is a mother, because she a Mom, Josepha's Mom.
Not that I think she was such a great mother. I don't know. But crises
don't just happen. And her attempt to tell Josepha's life as a story
with no shadows up to an incomprehensible breaking point is an
irresponsibility of sorts. There is no such thing. Nothing just happens
of itself. This seems like a shirking of responsibility. Making it sound
as if it all happened of its own accord and she had nothing to do with
it. More or less. This is treachery. And it's true. But she was there
day and night. Just as you would be there later, after he'd have been
wounded or killed or hospitalized.
So why did you let him go?
… Eight million years ago, writes Ada Lampert in her book The Evolution
of Love, following tectonic activity, a rift in East Africa separated
the apes, man's ancestors, into two groups. The climate west of this
rift remained pleasant, humid and warm, as it had been previously.
Chimpanzees – our kin - have lived there ever since. In the east,
conditions gradually changed and the region became barren and cold. The
tropical rainforest retreated and diminished. The apes who remained in
the tropical forest remained more or less the same. But the ancient apes
on the eastern side of the rift, those who were forced to give up the
easy life of the benevolent forest and adjust to the savannah, with its
vast open spaces and high grass, had a tougher time. Without a tree to
shelter the young or hide from predators, with the constant question of
where to sleep and be safe, a new environment suddenly placed the ape
under circumstances that were nearly un-survivable. Especially the
young. The mental perception of the environment, the way the brain
processes and makes decisions, had to change. Relatively soon in
evolutionary terms great changes took place. Walking on two legs…
females with a broader pelvis… a slowing-down of embryonic growth inside
the womb… Among other changes, there was also a tremendous increase in
the urges of motherhood.
In a wide-open, perilous habitat, where nature itself is not protective,
the mother needs powerful urges to protect her newborn. She needs to
feel that its pain is hers, its joy is hers, its hunger, restlessness
and satiety all condition her wellbeing. When it cries, she wakes out of
the deepest sleep, she recognizes its voice in a sea of voices, and when
it smiles her body fills with warmth, light and happiness, her
endorphins kick in, her need to touch and contain it to preserve its
body heat will be an urge of pleasure, making it happy she is herself
happy, full and fulfilled. Like apes like humans…
They will run after their offspring with food, and suffer if it is cold,
and their offspring will continue to be a part of their body, forever.
Such is the motherly drive.
In its first months, a baby's needs are simple and easily fulfilled.
There is full congruity between what it lacks and what its mother has to
offer. Her evolutionary keys fit its own, perfectly, to provide it with
food or warmth, alleviate any physical or mental stress – all it needs
Sometimes, especially in our more complex world, the automatic
compulsive instincts to assuage the child's needs and be there for it no
matter what, are not necessarily in the child's favor.
If, for instance, a child is dangerously overweight and should not eat
merely to calm his hunger, still his mother's body will yield to an
evolutionary determinism and crave for food. To give. She will not
always be able to keep from encouraging him to eat… Her drive to keep
away a lack only because he experiences it as such sometimes comes at
his expense, for his own subjective keys no longer necessarily indicate
his objective lacks. Not always.
Is this why you send him to the army? Because he wants to go?
I used to get angry only at the soldiers, because they are there,
because they actually do the deeds, actually perpetrate evil. And it is
true that any tax payer is also a participant. But the tax payer also
participates in other things. Not the soldier. Later I used to get angry
at the parents of soldiers who send them off, groom them for the
military, who do not say no, nor teach them otherwise, do not show them
that it is possible, permissible. Now I am only angry at the mothers. I
have no expectation of the men. The child did not come out of their
body. They know the child through the symbol, and through the symbol
they send him off to kill and be killed. He is not in their own blood,
their belly, their nervous system. Not usually.
Perhaps it is not right for me not to expect men to oppose the
Occupation. I mean, I do expect it of individuals, and some do oppose
it, but not as a general rule. Among other reasons because they like
wars, and only in a very secondary manner does it really matter to them
what kind of war it is. Not because they are any less moral – on the
contrary, they are more moral. In this sense that they are much more
attuned to society's formations, laws, values, rules, its common
morality. Women are less so. They obey because they are suppressed and
practical, not out of a sense of obedience as a value. Nor because one
rule or another is a value in itself. Obedience and morality and wars
and commanding and maintaining the system are the world of men, of
symbols. That is why I expect women to oppose the Occupation. Not
because of the injustice it constitutes, and not because going to the
army means oppressing and injuring another people merely because it is
"other". In these senses women are no different or special. Only because
the Occupation demands their sons to venture out into danger. And
because when it comes to their offspring, we would naturally expect
women to hold their own above all else, and before all else, inside
their flesh and blood, in spite of laws and before them. Because they
are mammals, because they are mothers.
Why did you not lie down in his path?
I cannot possibly figure out what you tell yourselves. How you flatten,
warp and shape reality that is right there in front of you, becoming,
when this begins to happen. Usually in the middle of high school. When
he begins to want it. This path of Israeli manliness, like all the rest
of them. When he goes running in the evening. When he forgets that he
had already been a 'leftie' for a few years. For how can he possibly
miss out on the most important Israeli initiation rite. The last
malevolent melting pot of ultimate belonging. How do you arrange reality
inside you when he begins to try out his new ridiculous maturity smirk
that has freshly grown onto his face together with his facial hair, and
produces those clichés lying in wait along the pre-ploughed furrows of
culture, to partake of them and walk along them as he is expected to do.
I want to contribute, says to you this child who has become a young man
without your having noticed, after never having washed the dishes, only
if he was paid, and that too depended on the going rate, otherwise he
'forgot'. For the sake of home, he says, before or after running off and
leaving behind his stuff and underwear for you to pick up and clean as
though you had no life or time of your own, and remembers nothing unless
it serves him. To contribute and sacrifice, he goes on to say, his young
face alight with the radioactive stuff of belonging, and cannot sleep
nights for fear of being rejected by the crack recon unit he has applied
for, and what will people say, and does some more body-building and
doesn’t do the dishes again although you asked him to, and when you are
taking an afternoon nap, he says there's no food, or iron me my clothes.
For the homeland.
Since when is it proper to risk his life no matter what for? When he
volunteered to work at the nursing home as a part of his civil studies
class, and got a scratch on his cheek, you said over your dead body, he
will not go there again if he gets hurt. And raised a racket. And he
died of shame and told you, woe if you ever come to school again like
that and embarrass him. So what is going on with you now? Over your dead
body for a scratch on the cheek, but not for the mental damage quite
sure to soak, in, because of all he will be expected to do? Not even for
the foreseen jeopardy to his life? You will remain silent over this?
Is your blood getting cold?
Both mother and father are driven by evolutionary urges into which they
were born. At their base, like all other living things, is the urge to
go on disseminating genes.
But the mother, carrying the ovum which becomes the fetus and built to
bear one at a time – her entire system, her senses and instincts are all
constructed to have to give total care to the one offspring that will
emerge of her body.
Not because motherhood is sacrifice. Caring for it means caring for
herself and perpetuating her genes. Thus the motherly instinct with all
its tones and resonance is deeper than morality or personal pleasure,
just as the instinct to breathe goes deeper than a moral mindset.
Because if it were to depend on moral judgment or pleasure, it would not
necessarily survive. Thus too physical passion and pleasure have
developed in order for animals to maintain sexual contact, and hunger
exists for them to eat, and physical pain or them to defend themselves
when tissues are destroyed. Thus the motherly instinct.
Nursing defers ovulation, so that each newborn gets its mother's
undivided attention… So is this whole strange awakening that a new
mother experiences. The baby's breath dances on her senses, its needs
scream inside her, its hunger shakes her through, its crying makes her
terribly tense, depriving her of any peace until it is appeased, and its
joy brightens up her sky and her heart – all of these are part of
natural selection's motherly instinct.
He was in her womb and remains close to it, forever. She can recognize
his smell of all the smells in the world, his breath, his sweat, his
pulse that was once her own, and remains forever her own extension. Just
as he came out of her body, there he remains, as big and as old as he'll
ever be, forever.
What happened to you?
The father, like the mother, was programmed for natural selection with
traits enabling gene dissemination. Since he does not bear the fetus in
his own body, he can sow his seed endlessly, simultaneously. Therefore,
he does have an interest in the one seed that grows inside the woman,
these are his own genes, but his ability to go on disseminating
elsewhere diminishes his absolute interest in the one specific
offspring, and he entertains parallel drives to persist.
Nor is his familiarity with the belonging of his offspring inherent. The
child does not emerge of his own body. His keys to this belonging are in
language. The term 'my child' informs him of that belonging. This is
what he has been told. And this belonging is fundamentally symbolic,
whereas the mother's knowledge and belonging are not symbolic. It is not
the words 'my son' that inform her that he is indeed her son. Her
knowledge is a-priori. She knows his belonging to her exactly as she
knows that she hungry or thirsty and that her pulse beats. With her very
Perhaps as a result of the same evolutionary programming, men more than
women live and respond and maintain a world of rules and principles as
their main encounter with others. For their sense of belonging - with
all its duties and rights – is founded on abstraction, has a verbal
basis. A fundamentally abstract belonging. Thus to their child, to their
nation, to their friends.
And from the same place it is men, rather than women, who are more
moralistic in their attitude towards their children. A father would tend
to show concern and even anger if his son would show reluctance to get
up and go to work in the morning. For someone else will pay the price,
and it is not moral, it is not fair to others in the wide world of
significance. Namely, the rules. And social manners. Regardless of what
he feels. Or what he wants. The idea, world order, are more important,
are terribly important.
The child's hunger does not flutter in their nervous system. They have
the distance of judgment in the wide world of significances. And perhaps
just because his vision of his child is not viscerally connected to the
needs and wants of the child as they are to the mother, his vision can
be more attuned to the complexity of the world in which the child grows
Not that the father is not concerned about his child. But it is a
different kind of concern. It does not emanate from the blurring of
borders, from empathy. He cares about the physical rather than the
mental health of his child. Objectively, not symbiotically. For he is a
father. The mother, unlike him, seethes with pity, when her baby – no
matter how old – is tired, or a bit sad. As far as she is concerned,
there is no world, or morality, no others. In this proximity from which
she functions, with the kind of instincts that have developed in her
through natural selection, she is driven to relieve his pains,
regardless. And the others, and the values of the world do exist. But in
more distant circles, and far more negligible.
Fatherhood, in its deepest appearance, is not evolutionary. It is
cultural. Monogamy is cultural, and with it the more total
responsibility towards the one child, and the dependence on its
In women, the responsibility for the child is biological. It precedes
language and culture. Therefore it does not exist in the world of
morality and reason. Just as eating or sleeping, or protecting oneself
from flames are not moral issues. For men this responsibility is moral
and symbolic, even when intense.
From this un-distanced, visceral place that the mother experiences her
child, she does not see him as he is. And the father lives with the pain
of distance, and its grace.
Still, in nature wherever the male raises or participates in raising the
offspring, his contribute is less than hers. And in nature, as among
humans, since the female benefits from the presence of the male be his
contribution as small as it may, she compromises. She accepts the given.
With more or less plaints and frustrations.
Thus female apes, thus human mammals. They compromise over the males for
the sake of their children. So do mice, and chimpanzees and whales. But
risking the child, would you compromise over that? His life?
No animal would make this compromise. Not concerning her child's life.
Has your blood gone cold?
She lay in the bed next to mine at the Abarbanel chronic patients ward.
She had the weirdest symptom: she would suddenly turn into stone.
Literally fossilize. It would happen to her while speaking or standing
or walking. She would simply freeze like the non-beings of ruined
Pompeii. And then she would usually get an injection or something. And
relax, until the next time. This was then called a catatonic state. Her
mother came to visit her every day with pots of food. She would spend
most of the day with her, until evening came, and then she would go.
Tamar never spoke. Not that I ever heard. Her mother did, though not
much. With me and with the others. A few words here and there. She was
always very tired. She was heavy. Not young. I think she was also short
of breath. She would bring Tamar her favorite dishes, every day. Meat
and rice and all sorts of things I no longer recall. And Tamar would
eat, and her mother would feed her. And then Tamar would enter her
catatonic state and her mother would wait, and tears would run down her
face, and time would go by and Tamar would get her injection and come
out of this state, and Tamar's mother's eyes would dry up and she would
go on feeding her, and Tamar would eat silently and her mother sat by
her silently, and so it went on for years.
How could you not have spun a thread at night between yourself and your
son, or hidden under his bed. How could you have looked away. How could
you not plead with him not to risk his life, no matter for what cause.
Is it glue that runs in your blood, that blood through which he once
breathed? Is it with a knife that you dug him out of yourself? Peeled
him out of the burning of your belly?
Is it feminism gone bad, that is but the flipside and parallel mate of
male chauvinism? As if being free means being similar to males? Does a
rebel against oppression become an oppressor? Does it mean internalizing
his tendencies or the lack thereof? Does being free mean being like a
man? And if he usually neglects his children, then so do you. And if
your child seethes less in his veins, then so should you? Is this your
equality? Is this not simply collaboration?
Is this why you sacrifice your child?
I am not surprised that fathers do not oppose their sons' going off to
wars, risking their lives, for more or less just causes. First, as I
said, they like wars. Why? That is a different story. Second, because
they are more attuned to belonging by force of rules and loyalty that is
transmitted through symbols and ideas, bound to language and culture and
norms and local values.
So what if he wears a blue uniform, what of it? So what if the other
mothers envy you? And the fathers. And your relatives in America. So
what if you are still the girl you once were and the most popular boys
went for the most sought after army units, and your stomach would turn
when one of them actually asked you out.
In her book In A Different Voice American psychologist Carol Gilligan
states that moral commitment in females is rooted in the emotional
links, in intimacy and the responsibility for others, while the male's
commitment aims at rights, rules and authority. Women's morality is
based on sympathy, men's on rules.
Gilligan asked men and women how they would resolve a hypothetical
conflict between the welfare of different people. The female objects of
her research asked for various details that were absent from the
description they received, about the nature of those people – where they
lived, what kind of ties they formed, about their wider life circles and
so on. Eventually they arrived at moral solutions fitting the needs of
those people, reasoned upon the social relations, and not upon abstract
principles. The men, on the other hand, reached conclusions based upon
abstracts rules and values. According to their own codes and values. Not
the actual individual counted, but the value of his deeds.
Gilligan also warns of an exaggerated tendency to morality based upon
rules, namely upon the blind willingness to sacrifice humans for the
sake of some truth - this very willingness that has always been the
danger in abstract morality, detached from life itself.
Perhaps Abraham was willing to sacrifice the life of his son Isaac as
proof of his faith and based on an idea, for the sake of an idea,
because he was acting morally. Adhering to a principle to which he was
committed more than to the life of his son. Doing what's right. He is
the father. Whereas the woman in Solomon's judgment who lied about her
being the mother in order to save her child's life, willing even to lose
him for herself as long as he stay alive, acted thus without any moral
conception of her son. For the sake of his life. Because she was a
So are you men? Moral? Obedient? Warring? For your country, at his
He who was in your marrow. How could you not have lain on the road and
griped his ankles and pleaded?
I expect of the father, too, to oppose his son's going to war and
risking his life. I expect him to fight culture and its morals for his
son's life. Of him too, for it is his son. because his son did not
choose to be born. Because fatherhood after all is the way of culture,
not just evolution. For if it were only evolutionary, then he would be
nothing but a biological 'father'. So as they are, fathers too are
responsible. And I want this, and I am angry, and I mourn, I am sad and
I expect it.
But I don't expect it of you. I demand it of you.
For you are a woman. For you are a mother. A mammal mother.
For he was in your own flesh. He was inside your pulse. When he
breathed, his blood pulsed in yours.
So what if he wants to go?
So what if that's what people consider the best of units?
So what if he looks good in his uniform and is ship-shape?
What of it? How could you let him risk his life and his mind? Why
haven't you lain in his path, pleaded? Why did you not go in his stead
and told them: No!
He was nineteen, perhaps twenty, although he looked younger. He stood at
the side of the road, and we passed by him. He looked, and his look
lingered, stopped, gripped us. He said "Good morning" and we stopped. He
held out both his hands, the inside of his wrists visible, their youth
stinging our eyes, skin not yet aware of the hourglass that has turned
for him too, skin that does not know its own approaching end, fated… His
mouth trembled even though he tried to conceal it. His wrists showed
fresh red welts.
We understood everything. Which of your sons did that?
That is where you sent him.
So what if he was glad to go? So what if it's the law? So what if he
gets a warrior's discount to the movies, so what if his brothers are
proud of him? Proud too is a kind of betrayal, for it grips whoever one
is proud of, and seduces him to persist and stay where he is, for it is
so rewarding, and valuable, and appreciated.
So is death. Here. In this death-loving land. That devours its dwellers.
Every dead soldier is special and a hero and good and a genius. "Don’t
say you are of the earth/You are of the stranger who fell at your hand"
says Alterman. They died so that we could live, as the old cliché goes.
But not the mother. Never.
It is true that a mother's bond to her child constitutes a
contradiction: the means by which she raises him is attachment. She
attaches her child to herself in order to shelter, protect, nourish him.
But mothers' goal is actually the opposite: to launch their offspring
into independence, autonomy so that they bear their own children and
further disseminate their genes.
Humans, then, have contradictory mechanisms: attachment and launching.
A mechanism that wants to cling and be sheltered, and another that
wishes to break loose into independence and individuation. These
mechanisms need to balance each other constantly, bearing an inner clash
– a sort of non-inverted inversion we all live with. The need for
non-distancing and the scare of losing our sense of self, which the same
non-distance represents. Hunger and scare. Scare and hunger. That fit
each other only back then, in the beginning, between the mother and her
baby. Later they become a part of our selves. Forever.
And perhaps from there, from the need to launch away, the mother
retreats and lets go in spite of the dangers that lurk in his joining
the army no matter what the army represents or does de-facto, for in
order to survive he must also belong to society. For he must be selected
for the sake of future offspring, within the codes of his society
whatever they are. And there is this dance between her willingness to
stretch within herself the possibility of bearing the risks along with
her concern for him to be accepted by the rules in force then and there
in order to be selected.
For the urges of love and caring, warm as they might be, lean upon one
cold principle that is common to all forms of life –the preservation and
dissemination of genes. And dissemination of genes also depends upon
Is this perhaps the reason why after sending him off to kill and risk
and his life you usually refrain from asking yourselves what exactly he
does in the army, the details?
I have something to tell mothers about this. Today's girls don't
normally fall for 'pilots' the way they used to. True, two generations
ago the ultimate male object of desire was indeed 'the pilot'. Nowadays,
the pilot seems more and more like some kind of defect. He who wastes
twelve years of his life. And executes in cold blood people whose face
he does not see. True, for a fling, the living combat hero is still
quite the hit among the girls. And there are contraceptives now. But not
he will be chosen to father their future children. Remember this when
you send him there for the sake of his social status.
The man who will be chosen nowadays is he who contributes to his home,
not his homeland. Who is really around when he is needed and not
"needed" in some abstract impersonal way. The wanted sexy good-looking
guy is no longer the silent, obedient type who 'cries only when he has
to go shoot', and leaves 'proud' orphans behind.
His genes are no longer the most sought-after.
And if your son will survive and not totally become crushed in body and
soul, after having gone off to kill others and trample for your sake, to
risk his body and soul for your sake, he will no longer be God's gift to
the girls, only a caricature thereof.
Times have changed, and not altogether for the worse. Young girls will
you tell you that. Their chosen guy washes dishes at home now, not only
when he's with his guys in the army. He's a little less full of himself,
less silent and full to bursting with awesome guys' secret army stuff.
He no longer runs himself ragged for heroism and honor, he is more
privately and personally caring, for his family. Less awe. More reality.
That is the attractive male. Times are changing. Ask around.
So for his sake, teach him to be considerate. Not only of 'honor' and
rules. Teach him that law does not equal justice. That when people die,
they die. Teach him to see the other, not merely through the prism of
benefits or social manners or the law or the symbol. Teach him that
upholding family ties does not mean just being important and right and
conventional or even earning a living, but means – literally - being.
Being there physically and mentally. Certainly not wasting his time and
young life, risking life and mind, while trampling the lives of others.
Teach him that it is permissible, possible, that you would be proud of
his doing that, that you will be there, that this is right. For you.
Save him from himself.
Teach him not to go.
True, men are still affected by all of that. All that battle glory. But
the dissemination of genes is tied to what affects women.
The young patriotic male goes off to Iraq to fight in defense of
symbols, and very easily deserts his tiny children. For the sake of our
homeland, he says as he takes his leave, his eyes ablaze.
The mother wouldn't go to Iraq. Not even the most warped of mothers. Nor
would you go off to Iraq for the sake of your homeland, and leave him
Why did you let him go?
The mite's offspring develop in her belly. At a certain moment they
begin to devour her body from the inside. They gnaw their way out,
towards their own lives. They make their way through hers. The
destruction of her body is the path on which they step towards
independence. They emerge from the ruins of her disintegrating body,
which makes way for them to proceed into their lives.
You are a mother. So what if he wants to go?
When he wanted to do drugs, when it was 'in', did you let him? So what
if it was the cool thing to do? It's harmful, you told him. Justly so.
Being 'cool' is temporary. Death and injury are not temporary.
So what if the man wants his son to go? He too is confused. He too will
lose if the genes get lost. But he is not built to know it. He does not
love his child from an a-moral place, like yourselves.
Even if Israel were not oppressing an entire nation, even if it did not
place it in closed enclaves, dispossess it, starve it, trample it as a
method, in purpose, as a policy, which soldiers represent and maintain
and uphold; even if the war were 'just', waged against evil and not in
its name, then what of it? Why he? Why your son? Let others go. Since
when do you care for the general good more than for his own? Since when
is his life worth sacrificing even for noble causes? Let others worry
about the general good. He came out of your own body.
You are a mother.
He did not go because the law tells him to, or because he wanted to, or
because his dad thought it is the manly and worthwhile thing to do, a
national duty. He went because you sent him. In your pride, in your
silence. If you did not keep him from going, if you have not taught him
that there are other options, if you have not let him know that your
pride is not in it, that you would be delighted if he would not go, if
you have not pleaded with him not to go, if you learned with joy that he
was accepted to the sort of units he sought – you sent him there.
First he was alive.
In an instant, he was dead.
In an instant, he demolished a home.
In an instant he loaded his rifle, and aimed and fired. No matter at
whom or why. He shot another. Because that other is an other. Or he
prevented him from living. Because you did not teach him that the other
is not an other, it is he.
In an instant, he trampled – his own soul and the souls of others.
Why did you not go in his stead?
You are a mother.
At least when your sons will be tried at the Hague, or another similar
court, for committing war crimes, at least then, when the wardens will
lead them to their proper prison which they will deserve for having to
do what they must because they cannot otherwise – at least then, stand
there among them, not away as you did when they were taken off to the
murderous, evil, life-threatening war they went off to. At least now,
when they will be justly arrested for their crimes, defend them although
they are now sinners in their own right.
For you are mothers.
Will you be missing there, too?
Only when they will be returned as bodies, or a perforated mind, you
will mourn openly and fearlessly. You will know sorrow and remorse.
Will only bereavement bring home the duty of motherhood? The knowledge
of motherhood? When he will come home, his soul in tatters, will you
only then pick up the incurable pieces, with your eyes and love and
motherhood? You know you will then follow those tatters night and day
despite any others' protests, forever, for you are a mother. His mother.
Why only then?
So what if he did the family proud? So what if the neighbors' wives will
talk? So what if army veterans get benefits? So what if it's the thing
to do? And the law.
Must you be told what was once the thing to do, by law, elsewhere? Told
Do Jewish-Israeli mothers love their sons? Does the woman who raises her
son to choose to enlist in an army - where he risks his own life and
necessarily injures others – love her son?
Is this a mutation of evolution, like six fingers instead of five? Is
the fact that normative Israeli women knowingly send their offspring off
to risk their lives and poison their soul – evidence of a new
evolutionary decline of the love of the mammal mother for her offspring?
Is their mother's love warped?
Is it love?
When one of her cubs dies, the brown she-bear often tends to neglect the
other, surviving one. Some found this to be a strange reaction to the
death of a cub, a kind of extreme form of mourning. But now the brown
she-bear's behavior is attributed to the possibility of delivering
another two cubs sooner after the first one's death, instead of waiting
another two years until the surviving cub has been weaned. Thus she
increases the chances of gene proliferation, for it is more beneficial
to invest in the next two offspring than in the one remaining, healthy
though it may be.
But even from this stand point, sending a son to risk his life is not
beneficial. Will the mother bear another two sons in his stead? After
all, his death or injury or mental damage will not contribute a thing to
your gene proliferation. His death, or his damaged soul are all that
A brown she-bear will protect her cubs even to the death. She will
starve herself so they can eat. She will assault whoever endangers them.
And she is the one who abandons the one cub to its inevitable death
after the first dies.
Why did you let him go?
And perhaps the model of the mother sacrificing herself to death for her
children is just another myth. Perhaps the language in which the world
is revealed creates the impression that all sorts of cold instincts are
a kind of mental space. And that there exists a thing called love, and
sacrifice and warmth.
Perhaps the fact that you send them off to dangerous combat, whether in
sympathy, or in silence, is because that myth – a mother unto death – is
just not true.
Perhaps it is no more than a cliché.
There was this woman in the hospital with me, I've forgotten her name,
or why she was committed, or what she looked like. She had two older
daughters. Very loyal to her. They came to visit her every day at the
closed ward of Shalvata mental hospital. We were four in a room then, I
don't remember the others, only her. She thought she was my mother. That
I was her daughter. And it was terrible. They would arrive, and she
would ask them who they were. Her face would light up when they
approached, she was a good woman.
We are your daughters, they said. She chuckled, indulgently, and said –
this is my daughter, and point to me. I would hang my head. Embarrassed.
We are your daughters, they said. No, she would shrug them off. And
would come to me and hug me, and they wept. She gave me the food they
had brought her especially. And she fed me.
I kept silent. Stunned. Guilty. Lost. Helpless against her invasive,
treacherous, absolute motherhood. She was a mother, and I was her
daughter. That was all there was.
In the closed ward, in the dusk of her life and mind and sanity, she was
there for whom she held to be her daughter. Totally. In the belly of her
mind she was my mother. And they hated me, her daughters. And I accepted
my guilt. Their hatred. Her love. Her motherhood. When no one looked, I
cried, too. And one day she saw and cried, too. Because she is a mother.
Before all else, and after all, and in everything. There was nothing
more absolute. More whole. More awful. More profound.
She did not stay there for long. They took her somewhere else.
I hope she now knows who her real daughters are.
I suppose this is not a mutation that has taken place here in this
region. There must be a reason, not some genetic defect that has
appeared in Jewish-Israeli women, not evidence of the cooling-off of
mammal blood. I suppose they are no less than other mothers. Other
mammal mothers. Warm-blooded. Whose blood warms up to their sons just
like that of any other mammal mother. That his death would be their
death. His ruin their's. My heart goes out to them. And my hatred. When
something will happen to him - and it will as a consequence of what he
will necessarily do and be at this present moment in history – they will
disintegrate. The stuff of their heart and body and the breasts that fed
him will turn to ashes. Because they are mothers. They are collaborators
because they are weak. Because they have internalized the strength of
men. Because he wants to. Because they are not moral. Because they want
other women to want him, and if these are the codes, then that's where
they push him.
Why don't you lie in his path and grip his ankles and plead, why are
you not a monkey-mother?
Aya Kaniuk. 3.11.2007
Translated by Tal Haran