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Last Night I Saw the Mushroom Cloud

Last Night I Saw the Mushroom Cloud

Am I incapable of thinking the unthinkable?


Jerusalem – I dreamed I saw the mushroom cloud. It’s been absent from my dreams for so long, in spite of Ahmadinejad. The more he talks about eliminating us, the deeper my sleep.

As a girl, I dreamt of it often; it was the backdrop of my life. Its after-image cast such a long shadow, in those days, that stray sparks from the firestorm were still drifting around the globe. The fallout was like snowflakes, finding their way all the way from Japan into my yellow-wallpapered bedroom in Connecticut.

I wasn’t the only one. Any American childhood in the 1950s and 60s took place with that impossibility as the underlying reality, and underlying fantasy: a brilliant white nightmare in the backyard, rising faster than Jack’s Beanstalk. Americans who were optimistic enough to build fallout shelters were ridiculed by their compatriots. How could a concrete bunker, naively fitted out with air filter and a two-week supply of bottled water, protect you from a bomb reputed to be greater than a hundred Hiroshimas? Even if you and your family did make it into the shelter in time and shut the hatch successfully against your neighbors, what kind of landscape would eventually greet you if you survived (assuming you hadn't melted into the concrete of your underground chamber)? What would you dine upon when your supplies ran out? No way, anymore, to pick up a quart of milk at the supermarket. Busses would not be running. And how would you breathe in the brave new world, once the dust settled and you emerged into the radioactive light, or darkness, of day?

As a citizen of Israel, I’m therefore puzzled by a sort of fearless insouciance on my part in response to the Iranian President’s threats, which couldn’t be more blatant. A smiley fellow, boyish and diminutive, he’s usually pictured before a cluster of microphones. Over the past few years he has variously called Israel a “rotten branch that will soon be destroyed,” an “illegitimate regime that will be wiped off the map,” "an usurper and an illegitimate entity.” "As everybody knows,” the President has declared, “the Zionist regime was created to establish dominion of arrogant states over the region and to enable the enemy to penetrate the heart of Muslim land…. Israel must be wiped out from the map of the world," and “there is no doubt the Palestinian nation and Muslims as a whole will emerge victorious.” “With the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism." "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."

Iran has reportedly requested United Nations aid for their nuclear development program, on the grounds that the purpose of its program is cancer research.

* * *

So now that the possibility of nuclear war is on a nearby horizon, like a nightmare coming this way, why aren’t I out of my mind with fear? Why aren’t I out on the streets, demonstrating to save our lives?

Why aren’t I out on the streets, demonstrating to save our lives?

My efforts to be honest with myself about my own low-key reaction, whereby I do nothing whatsoever on a practical level to combat the threat, have failed. I truly can’t tell if this is admirable serenity in the face of mortal danger, or the paralysis of helplessness that sometimes seizes the dreamer. Perhaps it’s the necessary numbing which occurs naturally in the face of something so overwhelming that it’s off the charts. Would it be just too nerve-wracking to take him seriously?

Like Jews who remained in Europe when it was still possible to get out, am I incapable of thinking the unthinkable, or am I so profoundly at home in Jerusalem that no matter what happens, I don’t want to be anywhere but here? Could it be that my trust in God has taken root so deeply that I’ve at last arrived-- after a long and circuitous, complicated route -- at simple faith?

Or is there something going on akin to Queen Esther’s response to Haman, Ahmadinejad’s forbear, who in spite of his plans to annihilate all the Jews, ended up killing not a one? “For how can I bear to witness the disaster which will befall my people? How can I bear to witness the destruction of my relatives?”

As a child, I thought we existed in a random world, a planet spinning in a vast, dark universe, a world in which physical laws constitute the ultimate reality, and unimaginable evil can triumph.

Now I know that reality is larger than the world we see, and that my own little voice, in personal conversation with the Creator, is the most powerful channel at my disposal to effect the course of events. But when I looked out my window last night and saw the mushroom cloud, looking so strange and so familiar, and inevitable, I knew it couldn’t be. It was finally happening but was beyond belief, so I woke up, and it was just a dream.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week.

February 20, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Sholom Landy, February 26, 2010 11:53 AM

Don't be so sanguine

Bsd"S We have to look no farther than 9/11 to see that one of HaShem's planning tools is to see that you are where HaShem wants you. If you are on HaShem's 'hit list', you will be in a vulnerable place when the 'planes' strike. If HaShem feels that you really want to repent for something or all things, OR that your life shows promise, OR that your offspring really need you, (or any other of HaShem's reasons,) He will tear your shoelace, cause you to miss a bus, have a child wake up sick, or do anything to prevent you from being in the danger zone. It is a truism that says, 'In times of danger, the Satan will prosecute', which would seem to say that HaShem has no power to discern those deserving and those not. How could one state a limit HaShem's power? In light of my initial statement, the truism, above, now reads, 'If a bomb explodes on a the plane in flight, all will suffer.' HaShem will have already put you where He wants you. That is notwithstanding the fact that major disasters strike and there ARE survivors found. One very last comment: HaShem has promised, in many ways, in many situations, that the nation Israel will ultimately survive all of the horrors that the goyim have in store for us, but HaShem promised VERY FEW INDIVIDUALS that they are to be among the survivors.

(8) Joe, February 25, 2010 5:34 PM

I think the article has it all wrong

First off. Hashem made it incredibly clear in Job that his ways are not our ways. For any Jew, after the horrors of the Second World War to speculate on what Hashem will or will not allow is the height of wishful thinking. I trust Hashem. I love Hashem. I am also very real about the fact that He has been in the business of letting cute puppies, kindly grandmothers and innocent babies not just die at the hands of evil, but die horribly for quite some time. He gives us free will. One price of that is to suffer the consequences of our own actions. Another is to let us (and everyone else) choose between being good or evil. That means he does not stop evil people from being able to choose to do evil acts. Otherwise there would not be free will. The short form is that you have free will too. You can take to the streets and scream bloody murder over this. You can make certain that Israel has as effective a military as possible. You have to do your part. It is not that Hashem does nothing. It is not that He does not care. It is though that he only brings miracles to those who merit them, and He has made it very very clear that even then, in the course of His plans - which we do not know - He has the nasty habit of taking the righteous with the wicked. This article is very properly about dreams. It is very much about staying asleep.

(7) B Gold, February 23, 2010 12:57 AM

So beautifully written . And yes this time God will preserve Israel .

(6) Beverly Kurtin, February 22, 2010 8:01 PM


I need to modify my comment above. If Imanutjob does what he wants to do, many innocent Arabs and Iranians will also be destroyed. Although we rail against many of them, there are decent Iranians and Arabs whom I would be loath to see killed because of one man's radical, sick thinking.

(5) Anonymous, February 22, 2010 2:54 AM

I think this article is a subconscience processing of Mr.Ahminajad as a very embarrassing representation of ineffectuality, irrelevance, and wickedness with his need to show how strong he is with his nuclear threats. He is the perennial,annoying schoolboy, pipsqueak who has never quite overcome his innae inferiority, and must resort to torture and murder of his own people, and threatening us to show the world that his utter failures will be redeemed by the destruction of anything which he deems to threaten his delusional power. If I were his advisor, I would tone down the rhetoric and work with Israel to establish a just Persian society where the Persions could express their innate talents education and know-how and compete with other nations in establishing an enlightened society that had no need to threaten anyone. I would reach out to those ocuntries, particuliarly Israel, and establish relations in order to streamline Persia and make it prosperous and humane - like Israel.However, schoolboy-who-never-grew-up- Ahminajad, can care less about other Persians even less his own society and would prefer destroying everyone-murdering, raping, torturing the bes, the brightest, the most innovative, the Persian thinkers, the Smart Persions who wish to recognize Israel, do commerce with, and learn from us, to maintain his prison-camp called Iran - pity. However, it is also the knowledge that Israel is truly safe, will never be allowed to be destroyed - it is our land granted to us by the Alm-ghty.

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