The Girls Who Cried Siren

After nearly two months of air raid sirens going off, pretty much everyone I've met is jumping out of their skin every time we hear anything remotely like a siren. A YouTube group called ילדי ריטלין (literally: Ritalin Kids) made a video that captures this perfectly:

We'll all be sitting around talking and a loud motorcycle will drive by on the highway, or the washing machine will hit the spin cycle, or a segment from the My Little Pony intro theme song sounds the the beginning of a siren wailing, and we all pause for a second, realize it's not a siren, allow our heart rates to decelerate, and continue the conversation.

More often than not though, that sound is emanating from the mouths of our children. That slow, high pitched wail, is coming from our innocent little kids who probably don't even realize they are doing it half the time. Children across the country have been "playing siren" over the last two months and have no clue that they are jacking up our blood pressures 4 or 5 times a day.

One thing I need to be cognizant of, though, is that this means my kids are probably a lot more affected by the sirens than we even realize. These random siren noises from them several times a day means they are thinking about a siren several times a day. I wish there were something I could do about it but all we can do is hope for the end of this conflict.

In the meantime, we can all try and spend some quality time with our friends and neighbors when the sirens go off for real. #IsraelUnderFire.

שמעת את זה?


I Just Want To Live

Today is Tisha B'Av. The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. As I write this I'm sitting on a stone floor in synagogue, listening to the words of Kinot. I'm already feeling hunger pains and I can't eat for another 11 hours.

Today my emotions are pretty much all over the place. Here are a few:

-Today I am sad: I am starting to internalize and feel the lives lost in this war. I've been trying to keep a mental distance from the war, made possible in part because I don't know anyone personally in Gaza, putting their lives on the line for me. Until yesterday, when my neighbor got called up. He's leaving and his wife will be home alone. I can't stand leaving Rivkah for a night. Who knows when he'll return?

-Today I am questioning: It sure seems like the IDF has been able to go into Gaza and strike a crippling blow to the Hamas tunnel network. But what comes next? If we dismantle Hamas does ISIS move in? Those guys are super intense and make Hamas look like small time crime. Can Gaza be rehabilitated and made into an economic partner? So many questions that only "tomorrow" can answer. 

-Today I am happy?: The ground forces are retreating from Gaza. The most dangerous part of the mission was when troops were on the ground in Gaza, at risk of enemy fire, mortars, kidnapping and booby traps. Pulling out signifies that for the moment, our troops will be a little safer. As well, they will be at less of a risk of killing innocent people. I know that every death must weigh heavily on the soldiers. Am Yisrael Chai means the nation of Israel lives. As I said in my previous post, we are a nation that exalts life. 

There are many other emotions swirling around in there today as well. But the last major one is this:

-Today I want to live: I've been having a very hard time understanding how someone could want, more than anything else, me dead. What did I ever do to Joe Palestine besides for exist? Does the fact that my mother was Jewish and her mother was Jewish really offend him so much that he wants me to DIE? I'm having even more trouble understanding how this mentality isn't confined to one person, or three people. There are millions of people all over the world who would just love it if I dropped dead. Because I'm Jewish. 

Anyway, these are my Tisha B'Av musings. May we never have to mourn this day again as all of my Jewish brothers and sisters return to this beautiful land with the coming of Mashiach speedily. 


A Different Kind Of Warfare

I remember 9/11. I have very clear memories of the day itself and of following the news in the days and weeks to follow. The Washington Post had a "War in Afghanistan" section every day with news coming back from the war front. 9/11 brought the American people together in a unity that had rarely been experienced before. In New York especially, everyone put aside all of their differences and helped out in any way they could.

I feel like Israel has taken that mentality to an entirely new level in this current flare-up with Gaza. The country mourns every lost soldier as if they had lost a sibling or child. The funerals of fallen soldiers are attended by TENS of thousands of people. It seems like the fewer family members a fallen soldier has in Israel, the more people who attend the funeral.

The army has had to ask people to stop visiting wounded soldiers who are recovering in the hospital because they are being bombarded with visitors. Visitors who for the most part don't know the person in the bed in front of them. The army has also had to throw out or re-donate food donations made by the people of Israel because there's just too much. Pretty soon the army's next big expense is going to be buying every soldier in the entire IDF bigger clothing because they're getting fat from pizza, cookies, cakes and sweets.

All of this emphasizes a point to me that is so very hard to miss. Israel loves life. If they had wanted to, Israel could've carpet bombed the entire Gaza Strip and killed every man woman and child, terrorists and terror tunnels included. They probably could've done it in a day or two and then boom, presto, no more terrorist threat right in our own backyard. And yet they didn't. Forget international pressure; Netanyahu has basically said to hell with that. Every soldier who's life was lost in this incursion, lost his life because Israel bends over backwards to protect innocent lives. Israeli's would like nothing more than to see Gaza demilitarized, the Iron Dome decommissioned because we no longer live under the threat of rocket fire, and for the Palestinians to build up and infrastructure and economy that can positively impact the region.

May this region be blessed with many years of peace ahead and may Gazans have a chance to return to their homes and build lives they can be proud of. May Israeli's not have to mourn the loss of another soldier. May the parents and families of the fallen soldiers be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

Am Yisrael Chai!


The Sweet Silence of Shabbos

A month ago today, I stepped off of an airplane into a country about to go to war. A war being fought in its own borders. A war where rockets are being aimed at the city next door to me.

Naturally, there's been ups and downs with this whole ordeal. On the one hand, we take shelter during a siren and camp out for a few minutes (definitely not the full 10). On the other hand, we shake off the siren and life goes on. We buy groceries, cook food, take the kids to the park, and in general just go completely nuts because we're at home with the kids all day and everyone is getting serious cabin fever.

Being home all the time usually also means being completely enslaved to our facebook newsfeeds. The JPost, YNet, Arutz7, Times of Israel, Muqata and other Israeli news outlets have totally dominated our newsfeeds for the last month and that's all we can think or talk about all week. 1 soldier dead, then 2, then 30, 40... A ceasefire breached over and over. Rockets continue to fly and weapons continue to be found in UN schools. It's enough to make your head swim.

But not on Shabbos. When Shabbos begins we get to just turn it all off. No doubt the war will come up in conversation at some point over Shabbos, but any news we are discussing happened before candle lighting. For 25 hours a calm descends upon us.

And then...Havdala...and it all starts back again. Yet another reason to look forward to Shabbos every week.