| War Diaries |

News Break

Then Motzaei Shabbos comes. The Internet tells me a hundred explosive-laden drones are already on their way to Israel. Even my husband is a little nervous.

When the war begins, I become addicted to the news.

Really addicted. Holding my phone to my face, scrolling with the left hand while stirring the spaghetti with the right hand, blind.

My husband goes out to night seder and comes back to find me in the same spot as when he’d left, curled up on our faded velour couch, my head bent over my laptop.

You can find everything online. There are open-source intelligence experts who pick up on news before it’s reported in mainstream media. There’s razor-sharp analysis. There are people with such witty black humor, I laugh out loud.

But it’s getting unhealthy. Getting unhealthy? When is an addiction ever healthy?

I’m reluctant to turn off my phone on Erev Shabbos, waiting until just before lighting candles to do it. During Seudah Shlishis, I’m itching for the sky to get dark already so I can check if anything major had happened over Shabbos.

My children start to grumble. My daughter says she’s sure I love my computer more than her. My son says he wishes I’d never bought a smartphone.

I agree with him. I wish I’d never bought a laptop, wish we didn’t have access to the Internet at home.

I wish I could stop.

I think I have lingering trauma from not knowing what was happening on Simchas Torah, from running six times to the safe room with my children, from hearing the sonic sound of war planes overhead all day but having no idea what was going on. And then the shocking revelation on Motzaei Shabbos that had me trembling for a week afterward. I have family fighting on the frontlines. I live in dread over their fate. If I always know what’s happening, if I hear about everything in bite-size pieces as it unfolds, I’ll be able to handle whatever happens better.

The week before Pesach, the situation peaks. The whole country, the whole world, is waiting for Iran’s retaliatory attack. The news is full of contradictory reports: It will be a direct attack on Israeli soil. It won’t be directly from Iran; it will be via their proxies. It will be via Hezbollah, who will start an all-out war with us. It won’t be major; it will be only on military installations.

It’s probably going to happen early this week. That’s why the GPS on the payment app wouldn’t work, and I couldn’t pay on the bus. It will happen in the next 24 to 48 hours. It will happen as early as Friday night.

I’m glued to the news.

On Shabbos morning, I wake up, surprised we’re still alive. Nuclear war hasn’t broken out?

Then Motzaei Shabbos comes. The Internet tells me a hundred explosive-laden drones are already on their way to Israel. Even my husband is a little nervous.

I can’t get off my phone. I can’t fall asleep. I keep checking the news updates:

The drones are being shot down over Iraq and Jordan with the help of the American and UK air forces.

Now they’re sending cruise missiles.

Israel will respond as soon as the first missile lands.

I lie in bed, drifting in and out of wakefulness, clutching my phone tightly in my hand.

They might send ballistic missiles. They take 12 minutes to arrive.

I must have fallen asleep, because I jump out of bed when I hear a BOOM.

My children run to my bedroom.

There’s the sound of stampeding feet and yelling in rapid Hebrew: “Get to a mamad, quick.” A car door slams, a motorbike zooms off.

There’s no air raid siren, so we don’t run for the safety of the mamad, we look out the window.

And I pull out my phone, of course. Because if I don’t record what’s happening, and if I don’t upload it, it didn’t happen. Right?

The sky is black, and suddenly it’s filled with small balls of light. They look like they’re chasing each other, and when they catch up with one another, the whole sky lights up in orange.

The Internet tells me we’re watching ballistic missiles being shot down in space.

Even after it’s all over, I can’t sleep. I need to check if there are any injuries, to see what the online commentators say about Israel’s response, about the interception success rate.

I don’t go to sleep until four a.m. School is closed the next day. Bedikas chometz is in a week.

I don’t want to look after my family. I don’t want to clean for Pesach.

I want to lie in bed with my phone.

This is out of control, I tell myself. You have to stop. You have to get offline.

I decide I’m not checking the news online until after Yom Tov. Cold turkey. Just like that.

It’s hard. So, so hard.

I feel it physically, in the arches of my feet. They tingle.

I’m irritable.

It must be the dopamine or serotonin or whatever endorphin deprivation.

I also get so much done. I’ve always been of the belief that dust isn’t chometz. But now that I’m not looking at my phone, I have time and head space to get rid of the dirt and the dust along with the Cheerios and dried pasta pieces and pretzels under the bed and in the toy containers. My house has never looked so good. I never turned the kitchen over so early.

On Chol Hamoed, it’s even harder. There’s so much free time now that I’m on vacation from work. When I feel the pain of the war, when I feel concern for hostages, I always turn to my phone for solace. Maybe there will be some news? Some speculation that there’s an upturn?

Now I take a Tehillim instead.

On Shabbos Chol Hamoed, my body starts to relax. Really relax. I wake up on Shabbos morning feeling refreshed; I’ve slept better than I did in the past half a year. I’m more patient with the kids, more focused on them, and they behave so much better.

I say so much Tehillim. I’d forgotten how soothing saying Tehillim can be. After Yom Tov, I wait. I only log back on at the end of Isru Chag.

It’s so anticlimactic.

Everything is so boring.

Saying Tehillim feels like a warm hug.

I’d been obsessed with the news, thinking that if only I saw every update, heard every last bit of analysis, tracked every development, I’d be in control. Thinking that somehow, that would protect me.

By letting go of my addiction, I’ve stepped back. I’ve handed the reins back to Hashem — and it feels so good.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 893)

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