Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I Am Here

  שִׁיר, לַמַּעֲלוֹת:
אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים--    מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי.
  עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה--    עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.
   Psalm 121:1-2

19:57, 20:08, 20:19, 20:56, 21:07, 21:49, 00:01, 1:10, 2:38, 2:59, 6:27, 7:45, 7:54, 8:06, 8:40, 9:04, 9:17, 12:44, 18:57, 19:46, 19:58, and then I stopped counting.

Those are the times of the 21 sirens that sounded in Beer Sheva in the first 24 hours of Operation Pillars of Defense – from Wednesday evening, November 14 until Thursday evening of November 15. Over 40 rockets were launched at the city, two of them causing damage. 20 people were treated for shock. About 25 of the rockets launched on that one day on the city were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Altogether, over 750 rockets have been launched against Israel since the start of the current operation.

I started this blog a few months ago to report on the good things in life in Israel. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve switched direction slightly. My country is at war, my city is being attacked. It changes things.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world.

On Thursday morning, I decided to dodge the rockets and go to the supermarket to buy food for Shabbat. I was at the store for about 45 minutes, during which time two sirens went off. Being in a public place during a siren is an interesting experience. When the first siren sounded, I was waiting in line at the meat counter for chicken. The two young lads working at the counter were Bedouin. The siren went off; I tapped the man in front of me who was giving his order to let him know that there was a siren. He finished giving in his order and only then followed the rest of the store’s customers into the shelter, which doubles as an office. A couple of dozen people crowded into the shelter in what can only be described as a party atmosphere. People were laughing and joking, comparing stories of where they were ‘when the siren went’. I waved to a few friends. When, a few minutes later, I returned to the meat counter, the young man was standing cutting up pieces of chicken. “Didn’t you go for a little walk”, I asked him, meaning, of course, going to the shelter with the rest. “No”, he answered, “I’m tired of going for little walks. It’s driving me crazy.”
The second siren, about 10 minutes later, felt like a reunion. “Helloooooo! Long time no see! Haven’t seen you in a such a looooong time!!!!”
I finally got my chicken and stood in the shortest checkout line – which wasn’t particularly short. Many of the checkout girls had not come in that day because they had to stay with their kids, who didn’t have school.
Everyone, however, was calm and polite, and waited their turn patiently. For a minute, I thought I was in an alternate universe.
When I got home, I found my email and facebook account full of messages and invitations from people around the country inviting us to come to them if we felt we needed to get away.  Some of those people I hadn’t spoken to since the Cast Lead operation almost five years ago, and before that I can’t remember when I spoke to them.

But at a time of need, all Israel pulls together.

By Friday morning, the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense (Amood HaAnan in Hebrew – a reference to the clouds that accompanied the Children of Israel in their wanderings in the desert and protected them from enemies), and about 400 rockets later, life had settled into a routine. My elder daughter was not a work, my younger daughter was not at school, my youngest son was not in Yeshiva, but it was Friday, with lots to do to prepare for Shabbat.

And then the phone rang. My eldest son called. I joked with him for a minute or two, and then he told me why he was phoning. He had been sent emergency call-up orders for the army. He was to report immediately.

30,000 soldiers had been called up over the previous 48 hours, with another 45,000 to be called up in the next two days.

My breathing stopped. I told him to stay safe, that we would be in contact with his wife who was staying at her parents in the center of the country. I hung up the phone.

I sat forever with the phone receiver in my hands. I sat wondering why I had ever made the decision to live in Israel. Why did I raise my children to serve their country?

Why my boys?

A siren broke in. I got up heavily, and went to the safe room. It was 7:45 AM. Hamas was once again targeting my home and my family, and my friends’ homes and families for the simple reason that we are alive and they want us dead.

I got through that Friday somehow, thinking about my boys, the one called up and the one already serving. We didn’t even know where the second one was.  But I still had to prepare for Shabbat, do laundry, clean the bathroom, and throughout I had to keep making runs to the safe room.

There were parts of the day when I wasn’t even crying.

Before Shabbat came in, we had heard from both boys. They sounded tired, but not worried, this is what they had both trained for.

I lit the candles for Shabbat, said the blessing, and thanked G-d for allowing me to live in my Land with my family and people, and for giving me such amazing, and heroic children.

Please take a moment, and pray for the welfare of our soldiers defending our Land.
May He who blessed our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces, who stand watch over our land and the cities of our Lord, from the Lebanese border to the desert of Egypt and from the great sea to the verge of the wilderness, on land, in the air, and at sea. May God strike down before them our enemies who rise against us. May the Holy One save and spare our soldiers from all forms of woe and distress, of affliction and illness, and may He invest their every action with blessing and success. May he vanquish by their means those who hate us, and may He adorn them with a crown of deliverance and a mantle of victory. Thus may the verse be fulfilled: "For it is the Lord your God who marches with you to do battle for you against your enemy, to bring you victory.



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