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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 important.

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 months.

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 to live.
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 being.

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 up. Sometimes.

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 exclusive welfare.

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 mother.

So are you men? Moral? Obedient? Warring? For your country, at his expense?
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 social status.

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 alone.

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 explicitly?

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 will remain.

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


in praise of mother monkey

Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806). Engraving

Tina Modotti, Mother-Child, 1929


a bitch nurses her puppies, baked clay relief from eshnunna, period of the amorite dynasties

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