Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First, The Tears

And it begins.

I see my Facebook feed slowly slowly starting to change today, as friends post memorials for their brothers, fathers, and friends who have fallen in action; who have been killed in terror attacks. And I know that by tonight, my entire feed will be filled with these stories, and my heart will be overflowing with them as the tears fall.

Tonight and tomorrow are the hardest day of the year in Israel each and every year. It’s Memorial Day and everyone – and I mean everyone – has someone to remember. A few videos have popped up in the last day and I’ve sat and watched them, and remembered.

The war from last summer, Operation Protective Edge, feels far away. But the videos bring it all right back. The horror of the boys’ kidnappings, the 18 days of waiting, the entry into Gaza, the chance that any of my neighbors might lose their sons, the long nights, the scary days, the bombs and on and on and on. I watched this video, made to remember the three boys Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, and I thought I would be sick – physically sick. 

There is footage here of them dancing, singing, laughing with family and friends. They are my boys. They look just like Matan.

And a new video has just been released that focuses on the siblings - those left behind when the 67 soldiers fell last summer. It's also a tear-jerker.

And my first grader comes home from school to tell me that his teacher lost her brother years ago. Did I know? My third grader (who had the same teacher for two years) jumps in and tells the lengthy, detailed story of his death. Because that’s how we remember.

Josh and I were being interviewed recently (for reasons I’ll explain in a few days), and I was telling a story of how we ended up in Neve Daniel. I described how we came in 2001, in the middle of the Intifada, to show solidarity to our friends – to be here with them in Neve Daniel.

The interviewer turned to me, incredulous, and said, “And that’s why you came to live here? People will think you’re crazy.” He wasn’t taunting me – he knew exactly what my answer would be, but he wanted to hear it from me.

I had to pause and chuckle slightly. “Yes. That’s when we started to think of coming. Because look – if we believe that the State of Israel should exist, then who are we to sit on the sidelines? Who are we to say we’ll have our kids in America and stay in the comfort of our homes, while your children and your brothers protect us?”

Really, who are we?

I remember feeling this way every time that I would visit Israel. Soldiers are everywhere here – defending our right to exist. And who am I to believe wholeheartedly in the country’s right to defend itself and to exist – but not believing that my boys have to be part of that?

We aren’t special. Our lives aren’t more important than those of every Israeli who gets up every morning and keeps working towards the safety and security of this country.

And by putting our lot with them, by being part of this incredible unimaginable dream that is the State of Israel, we become profoundly important.

Tonight and tomorrow are times of tears and memory. We’ve added 67 IDF soldiers and officers to our list since last Memorial Day who fell during Operational Protective Edge. We’ve added Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We’ve added Dahlia Lemkus. We’ve added so many.

So we will mourn, and cry out in anguish. And then, on the backs of their memories, tomorrow night, we will celebrate and watch my 7th grader in the annual Daglanute (Flag Dance).

And we will cry afresh – but they will be tears of hope and joy, of promise and future.

And the two days are inseparable. We are only able to have the privilege of the hope and joy, the promise and future because of those who have died defending our existence; because of those who have died waiting for a ride to go see their parents and because of those who have died simply for the fact that they are Jewish and Israeli. And we also remember those who, thankfully, didn't die. But who struggle every day as they work to heal their broken bodies.

Am Israeli Chai.

We will celebrate.

But first, the tears.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

For You and For Me

Each time I’ve found out that I was pregnant, I was thrilled – exuberant – for both you and for me. Your last pregnancy, in the Ghetto, was filled with terror and longing. And I’ve tried to replace that with only joy and anticipation.

With each birth in the safe, clean hospital, as they’ve put the healthy baby into my arms, I’ve thought of you; of that dirty miscarriage in the Ghetto. Of those babies who were never born and who you never knew. And I’ve celebrated my children’s births for both of us.

When each baby suckled at my breast, drawing deep nourishment and contentment, I thought of those moments when you tried, so desperately, to give your starving baby a few drops from your breast.

And as I bundled each baby in his cozy crib through the years, and then his bed with the cute truck pattern, I did so thinking of those nights when you lay heaped together, too many to a room with too little heat and no blankets, in the Ghetto.

As I’ve heard my children complain of afternoon hunger and I’ve offered them a snack, I’ve thought of those empty cupboards – of the days, so many days turned to months, when you did without.

And the journey East, where there were no snacks at all to offer to the little mouths, no water to quench their thirst. And no rags or towels or blankets to catch their tears.

As I experience Pesach each year and break Matza with my family, I think of your last Pesach, in the camp, trying to figure out how to make Matza out of nothing…remembering better times years before.

And as I hiked the glorious mountains in the Golan recently with my six sturdy sons, I’ve thought of your dreams, your yearning for a land of your own. For a home where you could frolic, argue, prance, laugh, love and procreate.

A few nights ago, as I lit my Shabbat candles, my candles that represent each of the Jewish souls in my house, I thought of your soul, of your family and of your candlesticks, snatched by the Nazis when they looted and burned and desecrated.

I have done all of these things, my beautiful friend, for both of us. I can’t bring you back. I can’t bring back your parents or your children…the generations that were supposed to spring from your womb that went up with you in flames.

But my salty tears drop for each and every one of them.

And my voice sings with gratitude for the chance I have been given for the both of us.

For the six chances.

The six strong bodies, vibrant hearts, dazzling sets of eyes.

The six Jewish, Zionist souls that will take both our heritages into the future; that will  multiply and multiply until they are a dizzying sea of glory.

Of our glory.


Here in Israel, in Gush Etzion, in the hills about which you only imagined, dreamed, prayed and cried.

We are here, together. 

And we will remain so.

For you, and for me.