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Jul 23 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That Our Israel Trip is Cancelled?

By at 10:59 am

passport and airline ticket near computer keyboard

We are canceling our trip to Israel. Even as I say this, I want to be there more than ever. My wife and I debated this decision endlessly and were waiting until the last moment to decide. We did not want to abandon Israel. We wanted to show support by being physically present. We wanted to show support with our tourist dollars. And we desperately wanted to be with our family there.

On the other hand, we did not want to subject our children to the emotional trauma of air raid sirens and running to bomb shelters. We did not want our children to have a negative experience in Israel. Nor did we want to unnecessarily take up space or resources.

It seems the choice has been made for us. As of this writing, the FAA has ordered all US carriers to suspend flights to Israel, the State Department has issued a travel warning suggesting the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel, and multiple airlines have either temporarily or indefinitely suspended their flights to Israel. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 17 2014

We Came For a Bar Mitzvah, But What We Got Was a War

By at 12:38 pm

Israel desert hills

We came to Israel this summer to celebrate.

And for many other reasons, too. Because our kids had never been and we wanted to show them the land of their people, because we love beach vacations and no matter where you are in Israel you’re seldom further than an hour from an incredible beach, and because the food is amazing (never mind the shwarma and falafel, even frozen schnitzel and french fries are delicious here–especially if you eat them on the beach!). Because you can kayak down the Jordan river and ride a wobbly camel in the Judaean desert, buy fragrant spices and the freshest challah at the bustling Middle Eastern market in Jerusalem, and find the most exquisite shoes at the beautiful mall just steps away. Because Israel grabs you by all five of your senses and never lets go…

what-we-got-was-war-3

But mainly we came to celebrate my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. He’s been practicing his Torah portion for almost a year. I’ve heard him once or twice–he doesn’t falter, never hesitates. He has spent hours with our rabbi in Oakland learning, discussing, preparing his speech and his words of Torah. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2014

I Downloaded Israel’s “Red Alert” App & This is What Happened

By at 3:04 pm

code-red-app

For the past week and a half, my phone has been emitting siren sounds thanks to an app called Red Alert [also called Color Red in Hebrew]. While it is meant to alert Israelis to the very real danger of incoming missiles, many in the diaspora, like me, have downloaded the app as a way to obsess stay informed.

And I have chosen to keep on the audio.

Now, I know that having my phone bleep isn’t the same when my life does not depend on my ability to locate and get to a miklat (shelter) with my kids within seconds. Or, if we were at home, get to our mamad (protected room). Hearing the sound doesn’t strike fear in our hearts or give us nightmares. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 10 2014

On Vacation In Israel in the Midst of a War

By at 12:51 pm

mediterranean sea sunset

The turquoise Mediterranean glittered in the late afternoon sun. Smoky barbecue drifted toward me as I helped my daughter and her cousin build sandcastles. No English for one and no Hebrew for the other, they built a beautiful, sandy city together with nods and smiles, gestures and touches. Up ahead three horses carried their riders toward the dunes. The sun sank lower.

The boys played Frisbee. The girls built their castles. The grown-ups drank beer and sparkling red wine, and the dog lay in the cooling sand, watching and sleeping.

They were photo-perfect moments happening every second, and my cousin ran from group to group and captured each one. “Chayim babu’ah,” she said. Life in a bubble. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

I Can’t Believe What is Happening to My Home

By at 5:07 pm

Israel is on the brink of war

If it wasn’t for the news and my Facebook feed, I wouldn’t know any better. Sure, I might be wondering why my neighborhood in Israel has suddenly turned into the flight path for the airport, but I probably wouldn’t be worrying too much.

You see, my life is wonderful. I have a great husband and five amazing kids. Everyone is healthy. My husband and I have jobs. We have a beautiful house. My eldest son recently got engaged and we are in the midst of planning a wedding. My day to day, although quite filled and hectic, is quite normal. No sign of the tension, no blaring sirens signaling a 15-second warning to run to a bomb shelter. Nothing at all.

That is unless you look at people’s faces and body language. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 17 2014

Our Boys Are Missing

By at 2:07 pm

our-boys-are-missing

Our boys are missing.

I say “our boys” because these could be our sons, our brothers.

This is just how we roll in Israel.

Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh-la-zeh: The People of Israel are responsible for one another.

You can see it in the way we scold random parents for forgetting to put socks on their kids. (“Where are his socks? Where are his shoes? It’s the middle of April and he’ll freeze!”) Read the rest of this entry →

May 1 2014

For Now, They’re Teens in California, but Soon They Will Be Israeli Soldiers

By at 10:12 am

Roi-outruns-his-mark-3-15-14

“Hey Ima, you know, the college scouts come to see the U16 games.”

I felt shivers up and down my spine, the same sort of chill that gripped me in early fall while watching my 14 and 15-year-old sons play together in a competitive soccer match in San Rafael, California. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them play; or at least I used to.

Both boys are passionate about the game, playing at a high level of competitive youth soccer. Every weekend during our stay in the San Francisco Bay area, I watch them play–two, three, or four games. I spend hours and days gazing at their strong, rapidly growing bodies, their lean muscles, tanned skin and their incredible agility as they chase a ball on a soccer field, somewhere in sunny northern California. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

Celebrating War in a Time of Peace

By at 3:50 pm
maccabees

“Maccabees”

I have a shocking bit of information for TV producers, magazine editors, and greeting card writers everywhere: Hanukkah is not Christmas.

While this may be obvious to some, the subtle differences in the two celebrations appear to have been skimmed over by many in popular culture who have decided that, since both take place in December, and we don’t want to be insensitive to non-Christians, let’s make sure that whenever we talk about “the holiday season” we take great pains to point out how Hanukah and Christmas are each about peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and universal brotherhood.  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 16 2012

My Country is at War

By at 9:52 am

israeli flag israel war pillar of defense gaza“Airplane!” my son shrieks while the sky rattles as fighter jets rip through the clouds.

He spreads his arms, roars like an F16, and zooms across the grass.

My daughter is older–and she notices what her brother has missed.

“There are a lot of planes today, Mama.”

There are a lot of planes today because no matter what you want to call it, this country is at war.   Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 17 2011

Imagining Warfare

By at 12:54 pm

A boy dressed as the king for Purim. (Photo: CreativeJewishmom.com)

Purim is just a few days away, but it’s still Hanukkah in my household. Just this past Monday morning, my child insisted on going to pre-K dressed as a “Spiderman Maccabee” after his 800th time watching the now-famous Maccabeats video. (Note: in case you were curious, this involves dressing all in red, wearing tzitzit, and brandishing a tin-foil shield).

My husband is an ardent Zionist as well as a student of ancient Judiasm, which means that my son was taught quite early that the Maccabees were brave warriors, fighting the Greeks for the right to practice Judaism freely. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he identifies the Maccabees with superheroes.

I’m pleased that he’s taken these strong, principled Jews as role models. What gives me pause, however, is his willingness to jump into an imaginary world filled with warfare. His Maccabees fight Greeks, his Spiderman fights Electro. All along I wonder, does he have any idea what it really means to fight a war?

Anyone who’s spent time in a preschool knows that you can’t keep little boys from play fighting. You can take away all the toy guns, strip them of all violent stimuli, and they’ll still point their fingers at each other and shoot. He also has some basic awareness of mortality, and asks us questions about death from time to time that just break my heart. But I don’t think he’s put the two together.

That’s what disturbs–and relieves–me.

On the one hand, I don’t want him to take warfare and battle lightly, to make it the subject of play. War is ugly, the worst of humanity and the adult world, and it has no place in the frivolity of childhood.

On the other hand, I suspect he really doesn’t understand what he’s saying. And that’s a good thing. Even at the ripe-old age of 33, the news from around the world often makes me want to stick my head in the sand. If he were to fully understand the persistence of evil and the inevitability of war at age 4, how could he bear it?

As we approach Purim–a holiday whose narrative is marked by the threat of genocide followed by a defensive massacre—these questions come into greater relief.  I want my son to accept these stories as a real part of his history. I want him to take them to heart. But I don’t want him to think too hard about why Haman wanted the Jews dead. Or the things they had to do to fight back. There’s plenty of time for that.

Need a Purim costume? Check out Mayim Bialik’s tips for doing Purim on the cheap.

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