Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eliav's Soldier

Before Purim, my ten year old told me that they had a project to do at school. The school put together care packages to deliver to soldiers on their bases before Purim, and his class was in charge of writing notes to accompany the packages. Eliav wrote his note to his soldier with his full name and email in case the soldier wanted to get in touch.

That was the end of the story.

Until it wasn't.

I thought it was a very sweet activity. And as kids do around the world, our children were saying thank you to soldiers for all that they do.

Eliav didn’t hear from the soldier, but he didn’t really expect to.

Then, right before Shabbat, our neighbor and close friend's son, Zvi, showed up at the door with his wife. “We have a message for Eliav,” they said, and he hand delivered a note from a soldier.

“What??” we all said in unison. “What’s going on? How could this be?"

Turns out that Eliav got assigned to a soldier whose family lives in Efrat (the next town over) and that the soldier is friends with Zvi. He was with Zvi recently and said, “You know I got this adorable note from someone in Neve Daniel. Do you happen to know Eliav Sussman?”

Zvi proceeded to laugh, and to explain that our families have been friends for almost 20 years and that we are neighbors.

The soldier wrote the sweetest note to Eliav, explaining how the army is often hard and it’s difficult to keep your focus on what’s important; he said that with Eliav’s note it reminded him that he’s working hard to protect kids like Eliav and to work for our nation.

Kids around the world send packages and notes to soldiers. Sometimes the soldiers write back and sometimes the kids never hear from them. 

When we deliver food to the Pinat Chama (the Warm Corner for soldiers) near our home, I see the notes that kids from other countries send to the soldiers. The notes are so sweet, but there is a certain feeling of disconnect, of thanking the soldiers for what they do there, in another country

It’s so indicative of our lives here in Israel that Eliav should get a hand-delivered note in a situation of this sort. There are simply no degrees of separation here, and when a little fifth grader writes a note to that nameless, faceless big soldier, it just might be that the soldier lives nearby and is friends with a family down the street.

Thank you, sweet soldier, for your service, for taking the time to write back to and inspire a 5th grade boy down the street, and for all you do for our nation.

Monday, March 06, 2017

An Only-In-Israel Purim Emergency

As many of my friends know, we’ve had a unique opportunity this year to reconnect with a student of mine from Churchill High School. It just so happens that he’s a professional basketball player for Hapoel Jerusalem. Yeah, it’s been wild.

So, of course, as Purim started to roll around, my two little guys decided that they had to be Jerome Dyson. We went to the Hapoel website with plenty of time before Purim and ordered up two jerseys.
This is what the jersey looks like. But this one is mine - hands off little people!

And then the waiting began.

As the date for them to dress up approaches, they are getting more and more nervous that those jerseys just aren’t going to make it in time. We’ve had a few meltdowns about it already, but there isn’t much that I can do except to keep calling the Hapoel office and keep begging the post guy in Neve Daniel to miraculously find those jerseys.

We aren’t known for having the best post office on the planet, and when I go back each day (during the one hour that the post office is open) the guy keeps laughing. Still looking for those jerseys, huh? And I would laugh with him, if it weren’t getting to be a dire situation and if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that those jerseys are buried beneath the 12000 boxes of Better World Books and other packages that he has in that disorganized, tiny space.

So, today, with four days left before the grand meltdown, I called the Hapoel office and sent them an email. I got a quick reply to my email, with Uri explaining that they mailed the jerseys six days ago. He gave me the tracking number and he told me that they should definitely be in our post office.

I was impressed with his quick reply, and sure that the blame now sits squarely on the shoulder of our postman.

Then, this afternoon, I received a phone call.

“Romi? It’s Uri from Hapoel. Did you check your post office?”

“Well, Hi Uri!” I said, giggling just a bit in surprise that he had called. “I can’t check until tomorrow, because, well, you see, the post office was open from 7-8 this morning and then they aren’t open again until tomorrow night at 6. So I’ll be there tomorrow to check.”

“Are these jerseys for Purim,” he asked.

“Yes. Yes, they are Uri.”

“Ok,” he said, as he became a man with a plan. “When do they want to wear them?”

“So, the kids want to wear them to school on Friday.”

“Ok Romi. Here is the plan. When you check the post office tomorrow night, if they aren’t there, then you call me Wednesday morning. I’m going to get two more jerseys in the right sizes and I’ll have them waiting for you in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Can you get here for them?”

“Uri,” I said. “I’ll go just about anywhere if you’ve got those jerseys for me.”

We both had a good laugh about that and the lengths that we will go for Purim, and our kids.

“Ok Romi. Call me either way on Wednesday morning. We will make sure those kids have Hapoel jerseys. Ok? Ok!”

I hung up smiling from ear to ear. While this was great customer service, I knew that his call wasn’t about looking good or about customer service. It was about Purim and about the absolute joy, almost zeal, with which Israelis approach this holiday. And how precious they understand that it is to the children in our tiny country.

I’ll let you know how our “Only In Israel” story ends in a few days. But I'm guessing that it's going to end with a few happy little Jerome Dysons.