Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gan Chanan - A Beautiful Park

For the last week, we’ve been waiting for Wednesday, Yom Yerushalayim, with a mixture of anticipation and sadness. The yishuv has been busy preparing a beautiful new park right by our son, Yehuda’s gan. This, however, is not just any park.
It is a park being built to remember Yehuda’s best friend, Chanan Sivan who died early last fall. (The sign, with Yehuda eating home-made pita sitting next to it, reads, 'Gan Chanan', in the name of Chanan Sivan, of blessed memory, Our Dear Son, a playful boy, donated by his family, his friends to the yishuv in his memory. Yom Yerushalayim, 5767) Chanan’s parents, Pinny and Tzippy, have spent months raising the money to make it a special park, fit for little children like Chanan. We helped in their efforts to raise some of the money that they needed through our amazing family and friends. We felt a special satisfaction feeling that we were able to do something – however small – to show the Sivans how much we cared and how much we missed Chanan.

So, every day for the last week, Yehuda and I have been visiting the park. We’ve watched them laying the stones and setting up the equipment. We’ve watched with great excitement as they poured the rubber (most parks here have sand and pebbles on the ground and it’s very exciting to see a park with rubber!). It’s been hard not to show my tears as I’ve walked by the park. It is so beautifully cheerful and so poignantly sad at the same time.

Yesterday, the park finally opened in a moving ceremony for the whole yishuv hosted by the Sivan family. It rained in the early afternoon and I was desperately worried that the event wouldn’t go ahead. They ended up moving certain things inside, but the event did continue. They had a play about Yom Yerushalayim, pita making, songs by Chanan’s friends, and then the presentation of the plaque. Pinny thanked everyone who contributed including all of our friends and family who contributed to the creation of this park.

The park was flooded with children who were excited to jump on new equipment and enjoy the day. It was wonderful to see so much joy coming from something so tragic. The park reminds us so much of Chanan and the sweet spirited, pure little boy that he was. It’s hard to go there without crying.

Yehuda woke up this morning demanding to go to Chanan’s park before school. I figured we’d be there alone – but there were many children who had, apparently, had the same idea. And this afternoon it was packed again. Chanan’s sister, Hadas, was there laughing and having a great time. Of course, watching her made me want to cry, but it also filled me with amazement that she is still able to be a kid and able to have fun. And now she can do it in a park for her brother.
We feel very proud that we were able to help, in our own very small way, in the creation of this perfect memory of Chanan and we thank everyone who contributed from the bottom of our hearts.

May we know only S’mchot.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Happy To Do Laundry

I’ve never been so happy to do my laundry. I was sitting in the laundry room today, which looks over highway 60 and Efrat, and suddenly saw an army jeep. The road was completely empty of cars. It could only mean one thing – there was a problem on the road and the jeep was trying to take care of it. Then, suddenly, I saw a slew of bike riders with Israeli flags attached to the backs of their bikes. The flags were waving in the wind and they were biking by with glee. The bikers kept coming and coming and coming. I stood there, wiping tears from my eyes and being grateful that I happened to be doing laundry just then.

Today is Yom Yerushalayim – the day when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. 40 years ago today our army was fighting for the country's survival, again, in the 6 Day War. 40 years ago today we re-entered the Old City, prayed at the Kotel (the Western Wall) and rejoiced in the streets. After so many years away from our beloved city, we had gained access to our holiest sites once again and could take care of them as they need to be cared for. 40 years ago today, we were also reunited with the Judean Hills where we live and where I was doing my laundry just then. On these very same roads, Jews had died in 1948 trying to bring supplies to the trapped and desperate heroes of Gush Etzion who were struggling to save Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. In 1967, we reclaimed this land, where I am proud to raise my family.

I felt a similar way only one other time, watching Israeli flags wave in the wind with pride. This was when I was at Auschwitz and saw a huge group of Israeli school children walking draped in flags. With their bodies and their flags they were yelling "I'm here! You didn't win! You tried - Hitler - but I'm still standing and I've come here to tell you that there is a State of Israel and we aren't giving in." I look out on the hills of Yehuda and I can’t believe that I have the privilege to watch my fellow Israeli citizens enjoy a bike ride on a road that has served as the path to Jerusalem for two millenium. What a country and what a day!