Tuesday, June 24, 2014

They are ALL Our Boys

Last night, we got an email from the yishuv at about 6 pm that said, “Soldiers are on their way for dinner! Get into your kitchens and get ready to welcome them.” And two hours later, the 80-100 soldiers piled out of their buses, tired and hungry.

And boy were they fed.

Someone in the yishuv had ordered pizza for them, and there was popcorn and soda, pasta and chips and on and on and on.

And we mingled with the soldiers, thanking them and watching them relax for a bit.

Before they went back into the field.

To find our boys.

And I went home wiping the tears from my face with the image in my mind of these young boys of ours out there, searching for their peers and hoping desperately that they will find them.

And tonight, at about 6, the message went out again. “Let’s do it again everyone! Another group of soldiers is coming tonight.”

And so, we ran to the grocery store to make vegetable platters and to buy drinks. And we gathered the kids together in their pajamas to hand out falafel, soup, pasta, cookies, drinks....

and smiles.

Boy did my boys smile at them.

And we fed them, and talked. And the soldiers laughed and hung out.

And when their buses left, we ran alongside them and waved and thanked them.

Not one soldier appears to wonder why he’s doing what he’s doing, or why he’s going without sleep. We all realize what our mission here is and we are all working towards achieving it in the ways that we know how.

The soldiers are searching.

And we are taking them in, like they are our own children, when they show up on our doorstep for food and comfort.

Because they are our children. And so are Gilad, Eyal and Naftali.

As someone said tonight, may the next time that we all get together be for a Seudat Hodaya, a thanks to Hashem for hearing our prayers and answering them.

And as I go to sleep tonight, tucked in my comfortable bed with my boys breathing deeply, I think of these soldiers out doing their jobs; and I think of the sleepless nights in the Frenkel, Shaar and Yifrach homes and in so many others; and I think of the boys, the dear boys. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Out of the Mouth of Babes & The Search for Superheroes

I took all five of the boys to watch their brother play in his last basketball game tonight with his 8th grade team. They were playing against their fathers and it was a great game with a lot of laughs and a nice break from the reality of our lives right now. 

But the second we got back into the car for the seven minute car ride home, reality smacked me in the face. 

Those of you who know me know that my life is filled with battling lions (fake ones), fighting off bad guys (fake ones) and hanging from ceilings (real ones).

Tonight was an entirely different conversation. The kids didn’t skip a beat. And by the end of the car ride I had tears streaming down my face and I was trying to come up for air.

These were hot tears of desperation, of profound anger, of anguish.

Why, oh, why should this be my children’s reality right now. Why should this be what they know?

Here was our conversation. My thoughts are all in italics.

We enter the car.

Zeli (5): Why do the Arabs hate us?

Dear Gd, really? This is the first thing that comes out of the mouth of my five year old? FIVE YEAR OLD.

Amichai: (9): Because we live here. Because we want to keep living here.


Amichai: How did it happen? Like did the boys get grabbed at school? Were they eating lunch when the Arabs came and got them?

The fear is so present – so pervasive. It can happen at the lunch table, my son thinks. It can happen anywhere, anytime. How do I reassure him, while being honest?

Zeli: I know what happened. (Remember he’s FIVE). An Arab dressed like a Jew. He had a kippah and tzit tzit and he drove on the street and picked them up. And then he didn’t let them go to their mommys.

Why, why, why does he know these details that we haven’t shared with him? How do we make him feel safe?

Amichai: But where are they? How can they just be kept somewhere? How can that happen?

Pause. The quiet of the car is permeated by my gulps, as I try to hide my tears.

Amichai: I know what we need. We need some real superheroes. We need superheroes to come and save our boys. That’s what we need.

Zeli: Yeah. That’s what we need.

And the car ride ends.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nothing Else Matters

There is no other news in this country right now. There is simply nothing else to think about, to talk about, to write about.

My boys are missing. Three of them.

Scratch that.

They aren’t missing – they’ve been taken – kidnapped – abducted by people whose sole goal in life is to destroy us. To tear us down at our root. To hit us at our core. They handed out candy in Gaza when they heard of the abduction.

The news does an amazing job of trying to turn the tables. Most of the articles that I’ve read continually refer to the boys as settlers – not as human beings, Israelis, Jews, 16-year old kids. No – they are settlers. Which of course, allows them to take the pressure off a bit. If they were settlers, then they deserved this, they had it coming, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And let’s throw into the mix the other point they love to emphasize. They were hitchhiking. Well, then they definitely deserved to be kidnapped.

Let’s get something straight. If you don’t live here, if you aren’t walking in my shoes at this very moment on the soil of Eretz Yisrael, then you just don’t have the full picture.

We ALL hitchhike. We live in very small communities here in Gush Etzion and many people don’t have cars. Even those who have cars typically have only one in the family. And if the kids need to get to school (which can be very far away, in particular for high school boys like Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel), then they have to rely on the bus system and on the help of neighbors and friends.

These boys were kidnapped five minutes from my home at an intersection where virtually all of our kids, and many adults, take rides. People drive by all the time taking the passengers to the local communities or to Jerusalem. It’s the way the country works.

Every parent that I’ve seen on the street has a stunned look of desperation on their faces. And we all mumble the same thing. “But my kids are there all the time. My kids tremp (take rides) everywhere. What if?”

And then we avert our eyes, wipe our tears and sigh with the what-ifs heavy on our lips.

Because it’s not a what-if for the families of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

And that means that it’s not a what-if for us.

These boys go to school with many of my neighbors.

Not to mention the active-duty soldier sons in our yishuv who were called up over Shabbat; whose parents are now wringing their hands as well, hoping that their boys come home safely.

These boys are my sons. And my heart is bleeding.

All of our hearts are bleeding.

There is no other news in this country at the moment. These are our boys.

I can’t tear my mind away from thoughts of their fears, their horror, their desperation. What in Gd’s name are they going through? What are their families going through? I try to stop myself from thinking about it, but it’s the only topic of conversation.

And how do you explain to your children who want to be safe, who want to be taken care of, who take rides because it’s how they can get around, that they are still safe? 

There is no other news.

And there should be no other news in every Jewish community in the world right now, and in every Jewish news source.

Because nothing else matters until our boys are returned home safely. 


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Enjoying the Many Wonders of the World

"Let's go away for your birthday for a few days," said Josh on Sunday.

"I'd love to BUT......"

And this is pretty much how all of our conversations that involve spontaneity and out-of-the-ordinary plans start. I have a built in "No" radar to just about everything. I had a million reasons to offer up about why we shouldn't go away. It was too complicated to plan all of the kids' arrangements, it would cost too much money to go away, it would require taking time off of work, it would mean paying a babysitter and on and on and on.

But I'm trying - I'm really trying - to ignore the "NO!" voice inside my head and to go with the flow and enjoy the unexpected a bit more. After watching what Stella went through, and after watching a number of other friends who are sick or have had life take drastically unexpected turns, I really do see and understand just how fragile life is. And I'm trying to go against my nature to seize the day and to enjoy the little and big things in life.

I took a deep breath, figured out the arrangements for the kids and the many other logistics and was ready to go. We picked up on Wednesday afternoon and went off to the Dead Sea. While I've been in the area a number of times, I haven't actually been in the water since I was 22. Hard to believe. We had a fantastic time. And I have to say, as we were driving down there, I remarked to Josh how incredibly awesome it was that we were taking a little two day jaunt for relaxation - to one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Israel is such a special place that even going on vacation means going to somewhere holy, amazing and sacred.

We took two hikes, one to Nachal Og and one to Ein Bokek. We discovered waterfalls along these completely deserted hikes; we climbed up the sides of cliffs using rungs in the mountain (although I almost made us turn back when we got to the first set) and we relaxed.

We floated in the Dead Sea, swam at the pool and went into a Turkish Bath. I even got a Hot Stone Massage. Of course I debated for 24 hours about getting the massage since it was costly. I went back and forth in my head - was it really worthwhile? was it necessary? should I spend the money? I even calculated how much I would be spending on it for each minute of the massage. Yes, I'm crazy.

Man, if only those tapes would stop. But I finally got the massage and I enjoyed every single second of the luxury. It was amazing.

The trip was great. The kids were fine without us. We relaxed and enjoyed, and it's so important to enjoy the times when we are able to get away (and to cherish those at home as well). Of course, the relaxation was gone about a half second after we entered the house...but that's to be expected.

I am trying to make sure that I don't live my life saying, "If only I had," or "I wish I had." And this week, we certainly succeeded on that front.