My neighbor just won a seat in the Knesset. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, it's completely astounding to me.
Until a few months ago, I'd only thought of Shuli as a fellow mom. With kids in nursery school together, we've often talked at the drop-off or pick-up from school. Shuli always - and I mean always - has a smile on her face and a sweet word for those around her. She's been very involved in the schooling within the yishuv for the years that I've known her, and my main interaction with her has been when I've needed to bug her about summer camp, Pesach camp and the like.
Little did I know when I was asking Shuli what discount I would get if I put two kids into summer camp, that I was discussing this with a future Member of Knesset.
The woman behind this sparkling smile has had a life that would bring many to their knees. And instead, she's about to take the 12th, and final seat, with the Bayit Yehudi party and join the Israeli government.
Let me take you back.
Shuli, 47, was married to Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Mualem, commander of the Beaufort Battalion. He was killed in the twin helicopter crash over Sha'ar Yishuv in February 1997 along with 72 other Israeli soldiers. Shuli was left with two tiny girls to raise by herself after this tragedy. Starting on the day after the disaster for years until May of 2000, Shuli wrote letters to her deceased husband that she eventually compiled into a book entitled "My Beloved Mualem."
She did not, however, let her life continue on a dark path. She remarried a lovely, joyful man who also had children and together they created a life together, and had even more children.
She is also the vice-president of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization and she works tirelessly for their rights and needs.
And then, just a few years ago, Shuli was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent dramatic, invasive surgery and had a long recovery process.
From the outside, in the years that I didn't know anything about Shuli, she was simply one of the very friendly and sweet Israeli women that I've gotten to know.
And now, with all of the knowledge that I have about her, I marvel at the smile that is always on her face, as sincere and loving as could be. I marvel at the countless hours that she has spent over the years on petty details with the nursery school. And I marvel at the hope, energy and enthusiasm that she always seems to convey for life.
And now, I marvel that my sweet, unassuming and delightful neighbor is about to be a Member of Knesset.
I am deeply honored to live amongst people like Shuli Mualem Rafaeli. People who are continually showing me how to get the most from life, and how to move on and succeed despite the odds.
Mazal Tov Shuli!