Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lessons From Our Kids In Trying Times

These are not easy times, to say the least. Each of us is trying to get through it the best we can. We all have our own red lines over which we try not to cross, hoping that these lines in the sand will keep us safe.

You see, we are fighting this war in our own backyard. Because some of the Arabs around us want to kill us.

Yes, you read that right.

They want to kill us.

And the bottom line is that we simply want to stay safe. We want our kids to survive the summer.

Can I write that again?

While most people around the world are trying to entertain their kids, keep them busy and happy this summer – my goal is that they should LIVE through the summer. That they should survive this situation unscathed.

Yes, that’s where we are.

And while we feel safe in our homes and neighborhoods, we are quite conscious that there are Arabs who would set off fireworks and dance in the streets if they managed to kill us.

So last night, we were debating with Matan about something he wanted to do today. Should he be allowed option A, option B or option C? Which will keep him safest without forcing him into restrictions that are perhaps unnecessary, perhaps excessive? How does one know what’s excessive when it comes to the safety of their children?

We decided on option B. Josh and Matan were comfortable. But as we got into bed, I went back upstairs where Matan was making a midnight snack (he is, after all, a growing teenage boy) to let him know that I would leave work if necessary to drive him somewhere; that I would run to get him if he wanted me to.

“Mommy,” he said, pointing the spatula at me, “You’re letting them win.”

“What?” I said, taken off-guard but knowing full well what he had said.

“Mommy,” he explained, “you’re letting the Arabs win with your fear. I’ll be fine. Go to bed.”

“I know Matan,” I said. “I hear what you’re saying, but I just…I just want you to live.”

“I know Mommy. I know.”

Another day.

Another day of trying to get through unscathed while praying for our soldiers in the South and in all corners of the country fighting to keep us safe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Promise of Tomorrow

We are a people of so much hope, so much faith, so much joy. Yesterday, 228 Olim (new immigrants) from North America stepped off of a plane and became Israeli citizens. In his speech to the new Olim, Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass called them heroes. They are heroes for coming at such a difficult time, at such a monumental time in Israeli’s history. And there is no time when we need the support, the love and the numbers more than we do now. He said, 
“Today’s Aliyah flight demonstrates the great resilience of the Jewish people and its determination to build the State of Israel.”
In a pre-recorded speech to the Olim, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said that 
“You are saying to all of our enemies that you’ll never succeed. We are coming to stand up for our state, our people, our future. You’ll remember it all your lives.”

Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky said 
“That so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us. This flight is yet another step in the ingathering of the exiles."

One of the Olim who got off the plane was Ilana Barta, 23, from Teaneck, NJ. She had in her hand her wedding dress, as she is getting married in a few weeks to an officer in the Paratrooper unit who is currently in Gaza. She hasn’t heard from him since the ground operation started.

In other news, yesterday Lt. Shai Witakovsky, a reservist in the Givati Brigade, asked his girlfriend to marry him when she came to visit between battles.

Finally, if you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s well worth a watch. About 12 years ago, Josh came to Israel by himself and attended the wedding of our close friend’s brother. The brother was part of an elite fighting unit and Josh recounted that he has never – never – seen the energy and joy that these boys exuded at the wedding. They dance like there was no tomorrow and with a zeal that often comes from seeing the darker side of life. Josh came home from the trip and said, once again, that we simply had to move to Israel; that there is nowhere else where the people rejoice the way that Israelis do and grieve the way that they do. There is simply nowhere that appreciates life and feels the intensity of life as do Israelis.

And it wasn’t until I attended my first wedding in Israel that I understood what he meant.

This video reminded me of a wedding. These are soldiers who have come out of Gaza for a break. They will soon be returning to the fight. But they are taking the brief time that they have to dance, to sing to Hashem, to sing about faith and hope and the future.

We are a truly special people. A people that shows up in mass, 20,000 strong, for the funeral of Sean Carmeli, a lone soldier; of a boy who came to Israel by himself to fight and to be counted amongst the Jewish people here, in our Land.

A people who responds in mass to a Facebook post that has been going around for the last day. It says, "The funeral for Max Steinberg, the lone soldier from Los Angeles, will be held tomorrow at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. His parents are arriving in Israel soon for their first time. Max has no family in Israel and we are worried that there won't be enough people at the funeral. Please share, post and recruit. This amazing brave young man deserves to be honored and celebrated." 

Josh is heading to the funeral now. A funeral for a boy that he has never met.

We are a people who dance, love and sing together, and stand together in times of intense hardship.

And we are a people who arrive on the tarmac, brimming with hope for a better future – carrying wedding dresses for the promise of tomorrow – for the promise of a peaceful future in our Land.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Never-Ending Newsfeed

I’m an avid fiction reader, and I’ve never read so little in my entire life. Every time that I pick up my phone or my kindle to read, I find myself turning to social media instead. Is there anything new? Has another soldier died? Is there something I should be doing? And the spiral begins, sucking me into the world around me.

I’d like to share a glimpse into my social media feed in the last day or two to give those who might live a bit farther afield an understanding for what our lives feel like.

On Friday, I wrote, 
“Holding back tears....until she wasn' next door neighbor told me that they just got a call from their son. He told them he loved them and to please convey to each of his siblings how much he loved them. And I held her and we cried for her son, for all of our sons, who are heading into Gaza.”

Then I saw that they are rioting against Jews in Turkey and that the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel on Saturday of having "surpassed Hitler in barbarism" through its attacks on Gaza.

A recent protest in Turkey against Israel
After my post on Friday, a number of moms in the yishuv wrote to tell me that their sons are in Gaza. One mom, who has a great deal on her plate already, told me that her son called to say goodbye on Thursday, and that he was heading into Gaza. And a few minutes later her son-in-law called to give the same message to her daughter.

And in Seattle they are screaming about blood libels and calling us murderers.

In the grocery store on Friday, I ran into a friend. I asked her how the wedding plans were coming for next month for her son. She replied, “Um…good good. We are trying to stay on track. You know he’s in Gaza right now, so we are just hoping they will still get married next month.”


And in Paris they are throwing Molotov cocktails at shuls and screaming “Death to the Jews!”

Yes, this is Paris in 2014
On Friday afternoon, someone posted that “Neve Daniel is keeping track of the families whose fathers are on Tzav 8” (emergency reserve call-up). We have over 30 families, and counting, whose husbands have run off to serve their country for an indefinite amount of time. We have a Google doc started and we are cooking for these families each night. I’ve taken on three families for dinner tomorrow night.

And I see on the newsfeed that “Venezuela's socialist government condemned Israeli strikes in Gaza on Saturday as a policy of genocide that could not be justified as like-for-like warfare.”

Yehuda tells me Saturday night, when he comes back from Bnei Akiva, his youth group, about the long list of boys whose fathers have left. He said that one friend is very worried because last time this happened he didn’t see his father for six weeks. And I tell Yehuda to try to be gentle with these boys – extra nice to them.

And then, last night, we had the honor of celebrating with our dear friends, at a Mesibat Geus, as they are about to send their 20 year old to the army. He enters on Wednesday, and there is a tradition here to have a large celebratory party before going into the army. He is going to be a paratrooper and at the party everyone talks about how incredibly proud we are of him – how honored he should be to be joining the ranks of those who have the privilege to protect us and serve our country.

His mom, last week, told me that she is so proud of him; that he is going to be serving in a sense in the honor of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, who weren’t given the privilege of doing so. He will be protecting all of us, in their memory. 

And I cry.

This morning, we wake up to more soldiers who have died. 
 We just lost 2cnd Lt. Bar Rahav (21), engineering corps.
And as I see their pictures, their smiling faces, I see the status of a friend.

She writes: 
“Thanks to all of you who have asked about the boys. We have not heard from them since the ground invasion began.”
And then another mom writes, 
“Just got a message from my son's unit of stuff they need. These boys have been in since the kidnaping and went straight from chevron to azza almost six weeks. They need boxer shorts, army socks, energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, gummy candies, cookies, triple AAA batteries and wipes.” 
So I drop off 300 shekel before work that family in the States wanted me to use for a good purpose.

And the bombs continue raining down on Southern Israel. There are sirens in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and on and on and on.

And a tunnel – the largest discovered so far – is uncovered at 10 am going from Gaza to Netiv Haasarah.

And then I see this incredibly brave young man, Daniel Mael, battling against a sea of hate in Boston, when they went to a rally to try to voice their opinion and to stand with Israel.

And another post from the yishuv: 
“On July 17th 2014, my son returned from the states with his Israeli bride from a five week honeymoon. Within the hour of his arrival back in Israel he received his next present a Tzav 8 or emergency call up to the army. Quickly we packed him up and within 24 hours of his return he was on the border of Gaza.”
Another soldier from the yishuv to add to the bursting list.

And all this before 10:30 in the morning.

This is life in Israel.

So, if you talk to me and I seem distracted it’s because I AM distracted.

I’m distracted by life in Israel, by trying to keep our heads above water, by finding the money to help the children in the South, the soldiers on the field, the families in the yishuv without fathers at the moment, the pina chama that has run out of cakes.

I’m distracted by the newsfeed on Facebook that simply….won’t…..stop.

Minute after minute after minute.

Second after second after second.

And by the ever-present danger for myself, my children and those around me.

And when my three year old wakes up this morning, looks at me and says, “I love you in the world Mommy” I try to hide my hot, angry, desperate tears as I choke back “I love you in the world too buddy.”

And I take him in my arms for all of the moms who took their three year olds in their arms – their three year olds who are now soldiers, deep within Gaza, fighting for all of us, for our freedom, our right to sit on the beach in peace, our right to be Jews in the Jewish homeland without rockets and terrorists and murdered school boys.

And as I hug him and hold him tight, I glance over his shoulder at my iPad, at my newsfeed that just keeps going and going and going.

Romi Sussman
Neve Daniel, Israel
At War

Sunday, July 13, 2014

And We Will Build....

There was a place not far from Jerusalem that used to be owned by a Jewish family. It was called The Cohen Farm and it was founded on September 6, 1935. The farm was abandoned during the Arab riots and then remained under Jordanian control until 1967 – when we won it back with our blood, sweat and tears.

Many people hoped to return to this land after 1967, but there were always hurdles, issues and excuses. And then, in 1982, a group of determined families decided to make it happen. And they came up to the rocky, windy hill, set up their tents and declared that they weren’t leaving. They took turns, making sure at all times that someone was there to man and protect the land. And eventually, on July 18, 1982, Neve Daniel became a reality.

And why was it named Neve Daniel? Nebi Daniel was the location, several kilometers southwest of Bethlehem, where a convoy that was bringing supplies to Gush Etzion was ambushed in March of 1948. During the 30 hour battle, fifteen Jews were killed and 73 were wounded.

We live where we live today because of the fortitude, strength and determination of the people who came before us; the people who simply said "We aren’t leaving." They declared that this was going to be our their community and they stuck it out in tents, then in caravans and then, eventually, in houses that they could call their own. Today, it is a glorious, thriving community of 450 families who have a similar vision and a desire to live in Eretz Yisrael and to fulfill our dreams.
On the night when the bodies of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were discovered just two weeks ago, the yishuv of Givat Oz V’Gaon was started. It’s a beautiful wooded piece of land set back from the road right at Tzomet HaGush. It was already called Givat Oz, and they added the V’GAoN to it to represent Gilad, Eyal V’Naftali. Now, this is State Land which has never been privately held. At the moment, it’s designated as a tourist location, so it could be used for guest houses, museum, picnic areas and more.

And so, a group of people led by the Women in Green (co-founded by Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover) and the Zionist Midrasha have decided that it’s time for this land to be used, loved and enjoyed. And one of the many reactions to the murder of our people that we often take is to establish more neighborhoods – to build and settle, and by doing so to show the terrorists that we will not be scared away by their tactics and that we will not bend to their will and leave our Land. Here is an explanatory video about the vision for Givat Oz V'Gaon:
We have spent a good deal of time at Givat Oz V’Gaon in the last two weeks since it was started. We have made pita, explored the surroundings, listened to lectures and delivered drinks and snacks. There have been mosaic workshops, challah baking events and times to build and plant. They have meticulously restored the building and have made the surrounding area livable and nurturing. 

Then, last week, we decided to take it up a level by staying for Shabbat. I wasn’t sure how Yakir would do camping, so I sent Josh and the five other boys for the Shabbat. They had such a lovely time , and so this week we ALL returned this Shabbat with friends of ours.

It was a truly glorious Shabbat. There were probably 60-70 people staying for Shabbat, and many others walked from Migdal Oz, Alon Shvut and Efrat to join us for davening and meals. We all set up our tents and brought all of our food with us. We brought games, toys, Shabbat clothes, delicious food and a sense of awe and wonder at what people are willing to do and the commitment they are willing to make.  

The area was well lit and had a generator to ensure that we had lights through the night in the surrounding areas. The spirit was uplifting and inspirational throughout Shabbat. Everyone enjoyed the meals together and beautiful new wood picnic tables that have only been built by the team in the last week. We sang songs, told stories, laughed and enjoyed the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Late in the day on Shabbat, right before Seudat Shleeshet, the air raid siren wailed, warning us of incoming rockets. We had told the children exactly what to do, and everyone ran for the small stone building that sits on the site. While I was running towards it, with a shoeless Yakir in my arms and a number of children charging behind me, Nadia Matar (the co-founder of Women in Green) was standing by the shelter saying, “Slow down. You’re ok! We have a minute and a half. You’ll get here. Come everyone, come.” It calmed me and allowed me to realize that I was part of a group, and that we were all going to get through this together.

It was very nurturing and really set the tone. Once inside, everyone gathered together quietly and respectfully and waiting to hear the booms, and then to wait another few minutes. As we exited the space, people broke into song. We wrapped up Shabbat with Torah, song and a beautiful group Havdalah.

The entire experience was beautiful. We feel privileged to have a way to turn our children’s feeling of helplessness, frustration and fear into something positive and uplifting. Whether this turns into a hundred family yishuv, a visitor’s center or something else, it is a great message to teach our children; they are helping to build the land and to give the message to terrorists that we won’t be stopped by terror and won’t be paralyzed by fear. Rather, they are being propelled into action. 

And this is what we do.

Romi Sussman
Neve Daniel, Israel

Friday, July 11, 2014

Helping Kids to be Kids..Even During War

As I wrote in my last post, we are celebrating our 10 year Aliyaversary at the moment. We have talked for a while now about how we would make the anniversary special for the boys and we have had many ideas- some grand and some modest.

But we didn’t expect to be at war when the anniversary arrived.

So, we’ve done the best we could this week under the circumstances, while trying to balance the kids’ need to be kids with the need to stay safe.

Tuesday we were honored to celebrate at the Knesset with MK Dov Lipman and President Elect Ruby Rivlin.

Wednesday evening we took five of the boys to dinner in Jerusalem. I was nervous on the drive, because I definitely don’t want to have to stop the car and duck on the side of the road if a siren goes off. We were instructed to leave the window cracked in the car so that we would hear the siren should it sound. My heart pounded as we drove there and back, but I know this is nothing – nothing – compared to what is happening in the South. I don’t know how they function or how they head out on the street.

We sat down to dinner and the first thing that I did was ask the waiter where the safe room is. I was surprised by his answer, “I don’t know.” Hmmmm… I asked him to go check, and he returned to tell me where it was. Really? Was I the first person to ask?

Anyway, we had a lovely dinner and arrived home safely, only to be met by a siren and bombs later in the evening. To the safe room for everyone…etc. etc.

Then, yesterday, we were hoping to go to the beach. But there literally isn’t a beach anywhere along the coast that hasn’t been under fire. So we altered our plans and took the kids to the new cinema complex in Jerusalem, Cinema City. This new facility has excited my kids (neighbors and everyone else!) since it opened. It has a huge range of movie options, restaurants, fountains and more and it’s very exciting for Jerusalem, which hasn’t had such a facility in years (ever?).

The kids have been asking to go for a while now and swear that they are the last of their friends who haven’t yet been. My kids were reminiscing yesterday about how they would go to $1 matinees with their grandparents when they were in the States two summers ago. It was almost $100 to go to the movies, but we wanted to do something special for our kids. So, we drove to Jerusalem in the afternoon and enjoyed everything about the movie complex.

This time, I didn’t have to ask anyone where the bomb shelter was. There were signs everywhere – literally everywhere – indicating where we should go should there be a siren. 
Yes, that's the kids pointing to the sign for the bomb shelter

As one of my friends commented on Facebook, “ Seeing "movie" and "safe room" in the same sentence is beyond surreal...” Indeed.

But that’s life here.

We were able to ignore the war raging around us for a few hours and to simply relax and enjoy, always conscious of the fact that our fellow Israelis in the South do not have that luxury.

During the movie, Yakir ended up getting bored and Josh took him out. At some point towards the end of the movie I noticed some activity and that some people seemed to be getting up, moving around, etc. but I put it out of my mind.

As we exited the theater, I saw a message from one of my Neve Daniel friends, “Are you guys ok?”

And I realized that something had happened.

While we were far underground, enjoying the dark theater and the movie, a series of bombs had flown toward Jerusalem and were knocked out of the sky by our blessed Iron Dome! Josh and Yakir, along with a hundred of their closest friends, had gone to the bomb shelter. Josh said that everyone was calm when the siren sounded and that they were shown where to go by the cinema staff. They sat in the shelter and waited for the ten minutes that are required, and then came back to the mall as if everything were normal.

We, on the other hand, were underground and they didn’t stop the movie. Makes sense since it would have been mayhem to get everyone out of the theater and into the shelter; and we were already safe where we were.

The movie ended. We milled around the mall with hundreds of other people, all going about their lives and trying to enjoy themselves despite the current reality. I noticed that the salespeople in the stores seemed friendlier than usual. With any purchase that we made, they looked up, wished us well and said something like "Have a safe and peaceful day." We are all in this together.

And then we drove home, praying that no sirens would sound as we were on the road.

Just another day at the movies. 

Here in Israel.

Finally, today, we rented a neighbor's pool. Rather than leaving the area, we thought that it would be a great treat to enjoy a pool..and to do so within our own community. Friends recently finished their absolutely incredible backyard pool (this is very unusual in our neighborhoods - most people don't have private pools) and they are renting it out by the hour.

As we arrived, we discussed the customary question, "Ok - where is the bomb shelter? What do we do if we are in the pool...." and then jumped in. We had a glorious time - absolutely amazing - and the smiles speak for themselves.

We are at war. We fully recognize the need for safety and we are constantly on our computers checking the news, looking at Facebook and knowing what's going on. But we are also living our lives here in Eretz Yisrael and reminding our children that they are allowed to live life fully, in their Land, without paralyzing fear. And that they have a right to celebrate our 10 year anniversary of Aliyah with smiles, movies, pools and fun even in very troubled times.

When I look at these pictures, I am reminded of Golda Meir's famous words that peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate ours.

If only that could be true.
Romi Sussman
Neve Daniel, Israel

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Decade of Dreams Fulfilled

We arrived in Israel on a Wednesday, on July 14th, 2004. We were the living statistic of the 'average' Nefesh B’Nefesh immigrant that year...we were both 33 years old and we had 2.5 children.

And here we were. (We are on this video many times at times 1:46, 2:29, 2:45, 2:46 and more. Catch us if you can and those fuzzy balls.)

It’s almost impossible to consider that 10 years have passed since that moment.

It’s been a lifetime.

But it’s also been a blink of an eye.

And so, ten years later, one of the people who made Aliyah on our flight (and also happened to be from the Washington area) invited all of us to come together and celebrate in the Knesset.

Why the Knesset? Because after ten short years, he has managed to become a Knesset member, and Rabbi Dov Lipman wanted to share this significant moment with all of us.

As he opened the event, he said that he had considered cancelling in light of everything that is happening around us. But, giving it a great deal of thought, and speaking with others, he realized that this is exactly the type of event that needs to continue to take place.

And this is exactly the type of anniversary that we should be celebrating right now, as bombs fall on the South, as they are shot towards Tel Aviv, as we just came out of our own bomb shelter after hearing the siren followed by a 'boom' and as we call up thousands of reserve troops in our mission to protect ourselves and our people.

Dov told a beautiful story about how we, as immigrants, are often in a strange position. Our children experience events and milestones like getting called up to the Army that we simply haven’t experienced. And where we can’t offer advice.

The day his son went for his first meeting with the Army, Dov was at the Knesset. And there was a Holocaust memorial service in session and Dov was handed a card to read the names of those who had died in the Holocaust. And as his turn came and he prepared to read his card, his phone buzzed. At that exact moment, his son let him know that he had started his Army process.

Representatives from Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency addressed the group. We watched a few beautiful videos about Aliyah from Nefesh B’Nefesh. Then Dov had each family come up to say a few words about where they now live, what they are doing and what their Aliyah experience has been like, and he handed out certificates.

Then, we had the honor of meeting President Elect Reuven Rivlin. As an 8th generation Jerusalem resident, he said that he was in awe of us, that we are the true Zionists. As my 12 year old said to me later, “Mommy. I’ve never met anyone important who said that I’m better than he is.”

And that was my son’s take-away from today’s event. Rivlin stood before us and showered us with praise. We are the true heroes of Israel, he said. He told a story about the time period when the State was founded, when he was living here as a 9 or 10 year old.

Someone asked him what he dreamed of - what he wanted to achieve by the year 2000. And he went through a long list with us of things that he could have said, of dreams that he could have expressed. But what did he express instead? He said that he told the person that he dreamed and prayed that by the year 2000 Israel could have 2 million Jews.

And instead, by the year 2000, there were 6 million Jews here.

As part of his visit with us, MK Lipman and President Elect Ruby Rivlin presented a Teudat Zehut (Israeli Identity Card) to two people who stepped off the plane TODAY on NBN flights. We were all touched to see these two brand new Olim being handed their identity cards by our own member of Knesset and by the President Elect of the country.

MK Dov Lipman (left), New Olah (middle), President Elect Ruby Rivlin (right)

This is truly a country of opportunity, expansion, growth and love. Dov recounted, towards the end of our afternoon, that when he was much younger and was at a rally for Refusniks (Jewish Russians who weren’t allowed to leave Russia) in Washington he was handed a random sign. The sign said:

'Free Yuli Edelstein'

Today, 30 years later, Yuli Edelstein is the Speaker of the House in Israel’s Knesset (and our neighbor in Neve Daniel) and Dov Lipman serves as part of the same 120 member Knesset only 10 short years after arriving in Israel

And if that’s not the ingathering of Diaspora Jews and the fulfillment of all of our Zionistic dreams, then I don’t know what is.

We are so blessed to be part of this unfolding story. Yes, it’s a bloody, complicated, completely infuriating and incapacitating story at times.

But it’s also one of hope, family, history and future.

Ten years ago we brought our 4 year old and 2 year old here to be part of the Zionist dream.

And ten years later, their 9 year old brother, 7 year old brother, 5 year old brother and 3 year old brother all stand beside them, fulfilling the dream that we’ve had for thousands of years.

To live as a free people in our land as Jews.

Romi Sussman
Neve Daniel/ Eretz Yisrael

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Not Boxed In

We all have boxes that we check off when something bad happens. I assume a psychologist would tell me that it’s a coping mechanism and that it’s human nature to do so. Someone is killed at 10 pm on a busy street next to a movie theater and you think in your mind, “Well, I’m never out past 9:15, and I don’t go to the movies, and I stick to side streets….” and suddenly you’ve managed to dismiss the recent murder as something that has happened to someone else, but that won’t happen to you.


But for us, here in Gush Etzion, there are no boxes to check this time. This is certainly one of the things that is hitting the Gush Etzion community the hardest about the murders of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. 

Well, we can say to ourselves, my kids wouldn’t be out at 10 pm. Can’t check that box. 

And my kids don’t tremp. Can’t check that box. 

Well, my kids don’t live anywhere near where this happened. No check.

And, well, my kids aren’t teenagers. No check.

There isn’t a single box that we can check on this one because this terror struck in our backyards. To our boys. Right at home.

So, when this happens, and there is no psychological way to alleviate your fear and your anxiety, what do you do?

You can pick up and move, but nothing would make the terrorists happier.

You can hide in your house forever and keep your children there (extremely tempting but unrealistic). 

Or you can look to the inspiration of others and find hope, comfort and unity in their words.

One of my friends, Zahava Bogner, recently posted this to her Facebook page:

“Food for thought: back in 1997, within a few weeks of moving to Fairfield, CT from NYC, someone tried to abduct my then-3-year-old daughter seconds after she wandered from my grasp. No one, and I mean NO ONE, ever (EVER!) had the temerity to suggest that we pack up and leave Fairfield for 'safer' quarters. Bad things happen not because of where you happen to be, but because there exist some people with bad intentions, and the will and the means, by which to inflict harm on others. It is therefore up to the rest of us to balance the scales with act of kindness, with prayer, and with good deeds.”

And then there were the words from Rabbi Yehoshua Fass today, the co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh. This nonprofit assists thousands of people to come on Aliyah each year (full disclosure, my husband works for NBN).  Below is part of what he wrote in a letter to friends and family, and the link to the full letter is here.

“This morning I received an email from an individual who is scheduled to make Aliyah in the coming weeks. In response to the news, they voiced their concerns about safety and were actually having second thoughts about their Aliyah plans. Although I try to be sensitive in my correspondences, I could barely contain myself. This is precisely the time to come home, I wrote. We must show our brothers and sisters in Israel that we literally (not just figuratively) stand with them; and it is imperative that we declare to our enemies that nothing – nothing - will deter us from returning to our homeland and fulfill the destiny and fate of the Jewish people. 
Our generation has been blessed with the miracle of the creation of the State of Israel. For two thousand years, we have longed, prayed and dreamt for this moment. But we live in a constant struggle over our existence in this land. We have shed many tears and we have sacrificed greatly. But we will, with God’s help, continue to build our Holy Land, to raise our families here, to educate our children, to fiercely advocate and aggressively protect our people and hopefully fulfill Hashem’s will – and view each moment as a privilege and treasure.”
In the last 24 hours, after attending a wedding, taking our second son to a vigil for the murdered boys at midnight, and then attending the funeral in Nof Ayalon, my husband delivered a Teudat Zehut (Israeli identity card) to an old friend who got married on Sunday. 

He wrote on his Facebook page, 
“I can't think of a better way to honor the memory of our boys than by celebrating weddings and welcoming new immigrants to our amazing country...we will persevere and we will remain! #rememberourboys Am Yisrael Chai!!”
Another Olah. Another body joining us here in Gush Etzion and setting up her life here, with us. 

In the Gush, a new community has already been started called Givat Oz-Gaon as a Zionist response to the murder of our boys. Gaon stands for Gil-Ad, Eyal and Naftali. 

The numbers are still out, but tens of thousands of people attended the funerals today for our boys. 

picture at funeral in Modiin by Laura Ben David

We are a nation united in our grief, outraged and sickened by our loss and by the savages that perpetrated this indescribable crime, and committed to staying. 

And building.

And continuing with our beautiful lives here in the hills of Gush Etzion in the Land of Israel. Because they would like nothing more than to run us into the sea, as they’ve attempted to do time after time.

But this is our home and our history and our people.

And we will honor Gilad, Naftali and Eyal by learning, as they did; smiling and loving our families, as they did; doing charity work and good deeds, as they did; and by setting roots here on our land with our bodies and souls.


Romi Sussman
Neve Daniel, Israel

The Right to Live

I stare at the blank screen and all I see is tears. My tears are staining my hands as I write, staining my shirt, staining the keyboard. We are a people who has endured and endured and endured. 

And risen again. 

But it doesn’t get any easier. 


They were taken from under our noses.

An open door. 

A symbol of welcome, of hospitality, of understanding how things work here, in Gush Etzion, and in so much of Israel. 

A chance to take three beautiful teenage boys home to their waiting parents.

And then gun shots.

And these are our partners for peace. And we are told over and over and over again that we’re being stubborn and ridiculous and illogical and intractable. 


And we are “intractable” when you take three of our babies and murder them. And that we must, as Obama has finally decided to say after 18 days of silence and the murder of an American citizen, "show restraint."

We are a nation completely broken. We have spent 18 days praying for the return of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali; watching their friends walking around their school, Machor Chaim, in a daze; watching our soldiers show up at our doorstep exhausted, drained..and yet hopeful. 

We have spent 18 days hugging the Frenkel, Shaar and Yifrach families and watching an internal strength that I can’t even begin to imagine.

And now, tonight, my dear, beautiful children who are privileged to live on the Land that we have fought for and won over and over again are asking me WHY.

Why did all of our prayers go unanswered?

What purpose did our prayers serve if the boys were already gone?

Why would people do this?

Will I be safe in my bed tonight? Did you lock the door?

Are a bride and groom allowed to cry at their own wedding tonight?

Will there be another uprising by the Arabs?

Can I walk alone to camp tomorrow two blocks from our house? 

I have being sitting on Facebook all night hitting the Refresh button. Hoping that it will refresh with different news, with other information, with the admission of a mistake.

But instead, it refreshes with the pummeled armored vehicle that was transporting the bodies out of the Arab village of Halhoul. 

They threw rocks at an army vehicle transporting murdered bodies. 

And it refreshes with the horrific details of the murders.

And it refreshes to reports from CNN where they were still wondering if the boys had actually been kidnapped - when they were already reported murdered.

And it refreshes with a statement from one of the murderer’s mothers saying she is proud of her son and she hopes he never returns to them. And that he gets away with the murders.

She is proud of her son.

And the pain simply never stops.

When will it end? When will it be enough? When will the world wake up to the anti-Semitism in France, in Belgium, in the United States, in London?

When will the world wake up to the murder of three completely innocent teenage boys in Israel and declare that it’s simply enough?

That we are a people that deserves to be alive.

And to thrive in peace and quiet.


And so, while we mourn and tear out our hair and wait for news of the funerals, we gather. Tonight there were gatherings at Tzomet HaGush, down the street from our house and right by where the boys were taken. There were gatherings in Tel Aviv and in the Shomron. Jews getting together to light candles and to sing. To cry as a nation and to mourn.

Tzomet HaGush: 11:30pm June 30th

To mourn. For our collective, painful, irretrievable loss.

Today was the last day of school. Tomorrow our children will wake up to the first day of summer.

And to a funeral for three of our boys.

And to a funeral for three of their brothers.

And to more questions. Some of which I will be able to answer, and some of which I will not.