Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kicks for Sderot!

Today, I'm bursting with pride for my kids. Matan and Yehuda (click on the middle of the pictures above and below to see the videos) are in a karate class, and the teacher put together a karate-a-thon. The goal was to get sponsors and to raise money for the people of Sderot, who have endured eight years of constant rocket attacks from Gaza. My boys took the task very seriously and ran around the entire neighorhood collecting sponsors. They also called and emailed relatives and friends in the States.

So, last night was the karate-a-thon. They had to do a certain collection of karate moves, called a Kata, as many times as they could. They were sponsored a shekel or so for each time that they did the move. Yehuda ended up coming in first place, doing his move 60 times in one hour! And Matan came in third place with 50 moves. (You can see video clips of them on Josh's facebook page.) This meant that someone who sponsored them both for 1 shekel a move would now owe them 110 shekel. When they got home, we tallied up their totals, and they've raised close to 3000 shekels for Sderot!

Whether or not my kids learn a single thing more in karate the entire year, they've completed their task. They have learned so much from this activity about the power of a single person. Here they are - at the ages of 8 and 6 - hearing about a war and about the bombardment that the people of Sderot are experiencing on a daily basis. What can they possibly do? What can any of us do?

A lot. That's what they've learned here, and what they've taught me. With their feet and their hearts they've raised 3000 shekels for people who have less. What an amazing lesson to teach them. No matter what life offers to us - and how powerless or insignificant we feel - there is always something that we can do.

Thank you for teaching me Matan and Yehuda. You are an inspiration.

They're Back

Last week, we learned that the war in Gaza was over, at least for the time being. This meant, to me, that our boys would be coming home. Those outside of Israel hear about the war in so many different ways than we do. To us, the war is incredibly personal. I really couldn't write while it was going on, but I spent the entire war thinking about Yonatan, Eli and El Natan. Who are they? Well, let me tell you.

Yonatan and Eli Hirshhorn and El Natan Segal are our neighbors. The Hirshhorns moved to Israel over 20 years ago and they are an amazing family. The father is a Rabbi who works at one of the Yeshivas in Jerusalem and he also teaches the class that Josh goes to every Shabbat. The wife works for the Joint, raising money for Jewish causes, and also runs a very well attended diet program in the Yishuv. They have five children, two of whom just served in Gaza. The first time that we met their third child, Yonatan, he was next to us at the pizza place. We had just made aliyah and we were cracking up as we ate our pizza. There was a group of 13-14 year old boys eating together, and then a few little kids with them. One kid, Yonatan, we dubbed the "fast talker." I've never heard anyone talk so fast - and he was doing it seamlessly in English and Hebrew. We soon realized that the little kids who were with the group were his little brother and sister. Most 13 year olds don't want to be seen with their little siblings - but not this kid or this family. He had brought them along for pizza and was happily eating with his friends and his siblings. Turns out that every Rosh Chodesh this family goes out to eat together. Since the parents weren't available that week, Yonatan brought his siblings out to eat.

We saw him, at the time, as an example of what we hoped our kids would be. He was hanging out with his friends and speaking great Hebrew while incorporating his siblings into his social life. He seemed so comfortable with himself and with both languages.

El Natan Segal comes from an Israeli family that lives across the street. The father is originally British and he has helped our children a great deal with their homework and their Torah studies. The parents are both therapists and are incredibly gentle, soothing souls. They are the type of people that make you feel relaxed as soon as you're in their presence. El Natan's unit has received great philanthropy from someone in the States, and he's come to our house a number of times to have us translate and edit thank you letters that his unit has sent overseas.

Since moving to Israel, we have gotten to know these boys and their families well. They are fantastic people. So, I spent the war thinking about them and wondering where Yonatan, Eli and El Natan were. I woke each day praying that they would return to us and went to sleep each night hoping that they were sleeping somewhere safe.

On Friday, we were getting ready for a busy Shabbat. We had an oneg to go to that night for a friend's birthday and then a kiddush and seudat shlesheet for our best friend's son's bar mitzvah. Josh came in and said that we had yet another event to attend. "Another event?" I said with trepidation. I like to be in bed really early Friday night and I almost never go anywhere. "Yep," he said with tears in his eyes. "The boys are back." That was really all that he needed to say. I knew what he meant. Yonatan and Eli's parents were having an oneg that night to welcome them home. There was nowhere else in the world that I would rather have been that evening.

When we got to the oneg, the place was bursting with people and with energy. The community was so happy to welcome them home and to say "thank you" to them for the work that they did. They had just given amazing speeches about their experiences (which we missed) and their parents looked so happy to have them back.

So, that's what the war has meant to me. Thank you Yonatan, Eli, and El Natan for putting your lives on the line for Am Yisrael and for Eretz Yisrael. Thank you for the work that you've done to keep my kids safe. Thank you for being an example to my children. And, most importantly, thank you for coming back to us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cool Azriel

I was doing something quickly on the computer today while the boys were playing in the next room. When I finished, I came to make sure that they weren't swinging from the chandeliers, and found Azriel looking like this! Eliav was very proud of his work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20th, Every Year

Today is the anniversary of when my childhood friend, Donna, died. It's been 22 years and I still think of her and her family every January 20th and every August 18th, which was her birthday. It's amazing how certain events in our lives make such an impact and stick with us forever. Probably for the rest of my life, I'll remember where I was when I heard the news. I'll remember calling my brother, Gary, from a nearby payphone and having trouble forming the words on the answering machine. I'll remember seeing the grief on her brother's face as he walked into their home, seeing her best friend clutching the last picture they took together, and standing in her quiet room, looking at everything left as it had been that morning.

Donna was an old childhood friend of mine. We had known each other from birth. She lived around the block and we spent countless hours together when we were little. I spent the night at her house before anyone else's (and called my dad to get me the first time that I tried to sleep over!). I learned to ride a bike because Donna already knew how to ride hers and I wanted to be like her. We shared many childhood memories together, and her death was the first time I'd experienced something that was so terribly painful and unfair in the way the world works.

I was thinking about all of these things this morning as they relate to my own children. I remember Donna's mom, Adele, at the shiva talking about Donna's life. As a typical fifteen year old, Donna had become difficult for her parents. Adele said that it had been such a blessing that on the morning that Donna was struck by a car, they hadn't faught before she left for school. Adele said that it had been a good morning and that she would be grateful for the rest of her life that her daughter walked out the door that morning in a good mood.

This made me pause this morning and reflect on how I send my own children to school. Certainly, we can't live our lives always worrying that when we say goodbye it will be our last time. We can, however, think about how we treat our loved ones and try, as much as possible, to treat each other well.

You can bet that I tried to be as patient and loving with the kids this morning as possible before they went off to school. I sat with the older boys for a few minutes while they ate and I told them all that I love them. Those extra few minutes really can make such a difference. I hope to remember this every day, not just today. But, for now, it was enough that I remembered it this morning.

You just never know what life is going to bring you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In His Eyes

The other night, Azriel and I were lying in bed together before he fell asleep. He was looking directly into my eyes, and I into his, and the world stopped for a brief moment.

At that moment, I saw the entire world in his eyes. He spoke his life to me, his hopes, his dreams, his expectations. And I listened.

I listened to the beating of his little heart and the gurgling of his sips. I felt the warmth of his tiny fingers wrapped in mine and the cuddle of his body against my skin. I saw the dreamy blue of his never-ending eyes and the wisps of eye lashes as they grew heavy. I smelled the lavender of his bath soap and the milky promise of his rosy, clean cheeks.

In that moment, there was no other world, nothing else mattered. In that moment, there was just a mother and a baby sharing love and trust together in a world they had created.

And that moment - that one brief moment - was truly what life is all about.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Why I Haven't Written

I haven't written since the war started because I don't know exactly what to say. I haven't written because I don't want to sit in front of the computer screen crying. I haven't written because I don't want to scare those of you reading this from far away. I haven't written because I don't really want to describe what it feels like to kiss your beautiful, perfect sons goodnight, knowing that so many other moms in this country (and in your own neighborhood) are only praying that they'll get to kiss theirs again soon. I haven't written because there really are not words to describe what it's like to live in a place that is at war - in a place where you wake up one morning to hear that many of your neighbors have gone off to fight. I haven't written because I don't really want to describe the sounds of bombs going off and the look of planes flying overhead - both of which can be seen from our home. I haven't written because I have no words to describe the heroism and determination of those who eagerly go off to fight, hoping to defend their country and to live up to their heritage. I haven't written because this country bleeds war - if we were to have a moment of silence for every bombing we've experienced, for every death from a terrorist's hands, for every war, we would be a perpetually silent country.

For these reasons, I haven't written.

May our soldiers return safely and may our country know peace and quiet sometime soon.