Jul 30 2014
I have a 9-year-old son. He is sensitive and compassionate. He listens carefully to conversations so as not to miss anything, and he is able to see concepts and complex relationships, making him seem wise beyond his years.
Perhaps these traits are the reason why my husband and I have never shied away from discussing current events with him in an age-appropriate way. We’re also just not the kind of parents who believe that children must order strictly off the kids’ menu or discuss only kid-friendly topics.
So, when our son returned from his Jewish overnight camp, we mentioned what was happening in Israel. He told us he already knew. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
My Israeli husband and I, along with our kids, made aliyah two months ago. Our new neighborhood, a sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, has been disrupted several times a day by the sound of a long piercing siren. Our 3-year-old twins, born and raised in New York, refer to the sirens as “a big fire truck,” but this time was different.
I was caught outside alone with the twins and our 6-month-old baby on our way to the playground after school. We had stopped to feed the baby and they sat next to me on a city bench chatting away and undoing their sandals to busy themselves. Suddenly, my worst nightmare came true and the sirens started piercing.
I started visualizing horrors as I ran to the nearest building holding my baby, leaving everything behind including my purse and stroller. I called for the twins to come with me and walk up the stairs to a nearby apartment building, but they wouldn’t. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 25 2014
When I was a little girl, my mother would tell us stories about her home far away across the sea. It was a magical place where deserts burst into life and the sea was so blue it was like swimming in the sky. This magical place was called Israel.
The people were good in this land. Warm and loving and quivering with life. They were smarter and stronger and braver and funnier and more beautiful than anyone we could imagine in our small, rural town. They were kings and queens and knights and storybook heroes.
Of course, there can be no heroes without villains. And Israel had them in spades. They lurked on the outskirts, brandishing sharp rocks and explosive packages. But, the innocent people could rest easy knowing that God was always on their side. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 24 2014
I have finally gotten around to reading Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land” about a month after moving our family from Sag Harbor NY to Jerusalem. At first it was too intense to read, isn’t there something a bit lighter–something on the New York Times‘ top 10 summer reading list–that I could pick up instead, especially at a time of war when things are so intense here?
But now, I find the media/internet/Facebook posting cycle so fast and dizzying that I need to slow it down–getting a little bit of historical perspective helps. Shavit’s book paints a picture of the triumphs, challenges, and tragedies associated with establishing the State of Israel.
But there’s one line that struck me so deeply. Describing the experience of an immigrant mother who had left Baghdad after the farhud (pogroms) there and immigrated to Israel in the 1950s, Shavit writes, “She pretended that all was well for the children’s sake, that this was some sort of sandy summer camp and not the end of the world.” Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 23 2014
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 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…
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
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
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
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.
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 →