by Sheila Handlerhandler

It’s Thursday evening and I’m lying in my bathtub, preparing myself for the mikveh. In the background, the radio is playing, announcing the missile strikes, as they hit; down South, in Ashkelon, Yavne and Be’er Sheva; in the center of our country, in Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva and Kfar Saba;  up North near Herzilia, Naharya and Haifa.  Just like my monthly mikveh preparations, these announcements have become the norm.

Only my youngest child is home.  He is downstairs, listening to music and playing a video game on his computer. The other three are out, serving their country.  My two sons are in the regular army and so they have given up their cell phones, preparing to enter Gaza.  My daughter has been called into the reserves. Yesterday, she should have been attending her graduation from Shenkar College (in Jewelry Design). Instead, she was guarding our borders and protecting us from infiltrations. And, this, too, has become the norm.

This afternoon, I spoke to my sister, Sherri, who phoned from Massachusetts, to ask how we were doing. We spoke and laughed about our children and shared some news and a few funny stories.  Enjoying the moment, she spent some time helping me solve a word puzzle from the morning paper.  Everything is fine, I tell her. And it is, because this has become the norm.

Even now, as I gather up my things and head down the hill of my town, toward the mikveh, it occurs to me that I have performed this act hundreds of times.  Every month, I spend an evening, just like today, pampering myself in preparation for the mikveh.  And, every month, I walk down this same path, nodding at neighbors and listening to the evening sounds of my town.

I can hear some children laughing outside the youth center and from somewhere I hear a single car driving into the town.  But, except for the calls to prayer that are coming from the Arab town on the next hill, all is quiet, which, again, is normal, here.

Inside the mikveh, I greet my friend, tonight’s mikveh lady, before heading in to rinse myself off for the mikveh. She has four sons, and like mine, they are all without cell phones and out of our reach. So, while I say the prayer and cleanse myself in the mikveh, we talk about work and getting together and anything else, but the war.  And, this, too, has become the norm.

Sheila Handler is a college instructor at Beit Berl College and at Open University.  She has lived in Israel since 1989 with her husband Chaim and children Lirone, Noam (and his wife Gitit), Donny and Yoel, in Yakir, a town in the center of Israel. Sheila’s sister, Sherri, is Administrative and Finance Director at Mayyim Hayyim.