Dear Jewish Community in America,
First of all, I am writing to express my thanks for your tefillah, numerous rockets have fallen all over Israel with very few injuries and that is in no doubt due to the prayers of all of Am Israel. Secondly, I would like to share with you what life in Israel has really been like the past few days.
We live about 50 km north of Gaza. This means that we are extremely close to the cities that have been bombarded in the past with rocket fire (the closest being Yavneh and Gedera about a 10/15 minute drive away), but have only experienced a couple of sirens in the past few years.
On Monday night my husband and I were in Jerusalem, we were visiting his mother who is sitting Shiva for her father. We were slightly shocked with the call from our babysitter that there was a siren. She was hysterical. She is only 15. My kids were asleep and we don’t have a safe room (or “maamad”) what should she do. Suffice it to say the kids stayed in their beds and an adult friend came over until we could get home. This was the beginning of the end.
In the city of Rehovot we have experienced 7 sirens in four days. That is peanuts in comparison with our friends in places like Ashdod, but its enough to terrify our children and keep us all on edge. Our kids lives have been completely disrupted, they have been out of school, bedtimes have been interrupted by sirens, and their bedroom has become the most inner area of our house, or the living room floor.
Today I made the terrifying decision to return to work, my children need to eat. We hired a babysitter for the morning as my husband runs a learning program, and we decided the kids would spend the afternoon with my husband at home. The babysitter preferred to watch the kids in her house, she does have a safe room. On the walk home there was a siren, my husband grabbed the kids and ran to the closest building. They were at least undercover if not in the safest room. Together with my two younger children, aged 2 and 4, my husband watched 4 rockets explode in the sky. With each boom the world shook, and my kids squeezed their father a little tighter. Tonight my four year old heard a sound during dinner, “A siren!” he wailed. Luckily he was wrong, but this is what is now ingrained in his heart.
My sister in law in America doesn’t want to tell her kids the whole truth, she doesn’t want to scare them. She has only told them to daven for us. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY KIDS?! What do I tell my 6 year old as she lies in her makeshift bed too scared to sleep? As she wails in fear when her father leaves for a wedding? Do I make promises that all will be well? How can I? I remind her that Hashem is protecting us, we say Tehillim and Shema together and I kiss her. A few minutes later there is a siren. I grab her and we hold each other, she tells me she can hear my heart beating. We hear noises – boom, boom, boom – our walls are shaking. I call her father, he is safe. We begin to cook for shabbos until exhaustion finally sets in and she falls asleep. I sit down to work, but I can’t help but check the news every few minutes. My husband calls he is on his way home, my heart begins to contort in fear. He is the love of my life, what if something happens to him on the road? I pray to G-d to keep him safe and continue to work.
My new motto is “just keep swimming,” I repeat it all day long. I am trying to live like an Israeli and “just keep swimming.” I can not believe how resilient the Jewish people are. How people keep bouncing back to life after each siren, how everyone is walking around, shopping, and working as if its life as usual. But underneath it all there is a little drop of fear as everyone is ready to drop everything in an instant and run to the bomb shelter. Everyone walks around with a sense of purpose, just breathing means the Jewish people are prevailing over their enemies and so we all just keep breathing, and hoping, and praying.
The other day my daughter told my husband she wishes she could kill the Arabs herself and make this all end. My husband responded that she is too small, that’s the army’s job, but she can do other hishtadlus to keep us safe and bring this story to an end – she can daven, she can do mitzvos, she can run to the safe area in a siren. It occurred to me that I can do hishtadlus too. I can use my words to show you all the real picture of whats going on here, to make you realize that its not just a few “settlers” in the South anymore. Its the guy you sat next to in Chaim Berlin, the girl who was in your literature class in Touro, or in your bunk in Sternberg. It’s our children. It’s families, students, the elderly, people sitting shiva, an entire population of real people with real lives living through a nightmare.
And now what can you do with my hishtadlus? You can think about my children when you say tehillim, squeeze your eyes a little tighter as you finish shimona esrie and beg G-d to grant us peace. You can write a letter to your senator or even the president showing your support of Israel. You can order a pizza for a traumatized family in the South or send care packages to the soldiers who have left their families and are waiting to enter Gaza. You can publicize this on social media so people who may otherwise not realize what was going on can understand. And most importantly, you can internalize that this isn’t just a story on the news, but the entire nation of Israel fighting for our very existence and you can beg G-d that truth prevail in the land of Israel and we are all reunited with the coming of Mashiach.