Sunday, November 18, 2012

Passion, Love & Hope

Passion, love and hope come in many forms.

They come in the form of a man, willing to take his body to the absolute limit for the love of his wife.

They come in the form of a community, hundreds of people, who line the streets to cheer on the man who completes his mission.

They come in the form of a son, getting the call during services on Friday night, and then embracing his father and little brother before walking out to the waiting car that will take him to war.

They come in the form of a mother, rushing up the street to grab her 7 year old who has left for synagogue, while the sirens blare.


On Friday, Yarden Frankl completed the mission of a lifetime. Months ago, he devised a plan to raise money for Shaare Zedek hospital, where his wife, Stella, has been receiving treatments for stomach cancer for the last year and a half. He set up the team, he created the plan, and he trained. He left the Hermon, the highest point in Israel, in the darkest of night at midnight on Thursday and traveled with a team car and a friend on a scooter passed the Dead Sea (the lowest point on Earth) all the way until he reached the second highest point in Israel, our home in Neve Daniel.

At 9 am on Friday, Ruth, Stella, two of my boys and I met up with them in Almog, about an hour and fifteen minutes from home. Yarden was shaking, exhausted and fearful of the steep climb ahead to Jerusalem. I was very nervous. How in the world, after 9 hours of sleepless physical exertion, was he going to make it up that monster climb? We ate breakfast together with the team who came from Shaare Zedek (including Stella’s oncologist and his wife!) and we davened.

And then Yarden was ready. And we went on to another point were friends were waiting to cheer him on before we returned home.

When we got home at 12:00, I turned the computer on with trepidation. Would he really get up that mountain? And I looked, with shock, as I saw that he was already cruising the streets of Jerusalem – he had done it!!! We dashed out of the house, gathered up the kids, and stood with hundreds of our friends at the entrance to the yishuv to cheer him home.

It was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It was what movies are made of, as Yarden charged up the hill with hundreds of kids screaming and cheering at his back and a camera woman hanging out of a car to capture the scene right in front of him.

Along with Yarden, Stella, Josh and David, the Rav spoke at our victory party. And what he said clearly made a difference to my children.

The next morning, on Shabbat, when I asked the kids what they had learned from Yarden’s amazing ride, Eliav (who is only six) said, “Yarden is the Rav (Rabbi) of bikes.”

Laughing, but knowing where he was going with this, I said, “What do you mean Eliav?”

“You heard what the Rav said, Mommy. We can daven with our mouths, but we can also daven with our feet. With our bodies. With our hearts. We can do anything Mommy.”

Oh, Yarden.

If only you can imagine the lessons you’ve just taught to my boys, to the children of the yishuv, to your own children, and, of course, to your wife.


On Friday night, while we were still basking in Yarden’s accomplishments, Josh and the older boys went off to shul.

And for the first time in my experiences in Gush Etzion, the siren sounded. The only time that we’ve ever heard this siren is on memorial days. On Holocaust Remembrance Day and on Memorial Day, they sound the siren and we all stand at attention in silence for two minutes around the country. But this was no remembrance day. And as I heard the siren, I looked in utter confusion and horror around me. What in the world was happening? What were we to do?

And then it dawned on me. And the need, as a mother, to stay calm for her children gave way in a heartbeat to the need to keep them safe. I yelled, “Get to the safe room! Go!” and scooped the baby from his play. We dashed downstairs, only to realize that Zeli, 4, was sound asleep in my bed. I needed to leave the 2 year old and make him stay in the safe room, but I needed to grab the 4 year old. How in the world do people in the South do this over and over and over again?

For ten years?

I heard later, of course, about the experiences of many others. The one that is the most poignant is that of my neighbor. She had just sent her 7 year old off to shul when the siren sounded. Looking at the door in horror, she wondered what she should do. Could she catch him and get back to the safe room in time? Would he know to find a home to duck into? She ran out into the street and saw him up ahead. He was completely motionless – just standing still in the empty street as the siren wailed. What was he doing? She thought he might be in shock.

Rushing to catch him, she realized that he was standing tall, proud, strong, for the siren that he had been trained to listen to, as one does on Memorial Day. As a bomb was about to fall nearby, this child was standing at attention, honoring his ancestors as he had been taught.

But this wasn’t a siren for honoring. It was a siren for running. She grabbed him and they ran, back to the safety of their shelter.

The stories go on and on…including the Arab from the village of Tuqua who called his friend, the Jew, in Tekoa as the sirens were wailing to find out what was going on. Including the children who burst into tears in the middle of prayers at Bnei Akiva, who didn’t understand what was happening. Including the many, many children who slept on the floor in their parents’ rooms Friday night and last night, trying to make sense of the world around them. And this was all a reaction to one siren – just one.


And then, Saturday night, our children had a culminating activity for their opening month of Bnei Akiva. I left the house early for it, thirsting for a Zionist activity – for a reason to celebrate and to enjoy with my community. And the children danced with their Israeli flags, and stood at attention as we all sang Ha’Tikva. The activities were not held in our open field, as usual, but in a more shielded area in case the sirens should wail. But other than this adjustment, they were able to momentarily enjoy being children again and to sing and enjoy in unison.

But in the South, the children didn’t sleep Friday night, as we did. And they didn’t celebrate, even in a sheltered location, with their Bnei Akiva groups. And for ten years now, they’ve been living with the sounds of those blaring sirens and the feel of the earth shaking beneath their feet as the bombs fall.

Our children – our community – were completely shaken by one siren. By one set of bombs that fell not far from our homes. This war isn’t about how many rockets have fallen this week or about our operation in Gaza. It’s about a decade – a decade – of rockets. Of citizens of a free country who can’t send their children to the park or to school without the fear of bombs falling and without the fear of their lives being shattered – physically and emotionally over and over and over again.

And so today, we continue to send our sons, our brothers and our fathers into battle. We do so with a passionate love for our people, with the hope for a better tomorrow for everyone in this country, and for the goal of finally having the quiet that we all deserve. We daven with our words that things will improve – that our boys will fight the fight they need to and then return home. But we also daven with our feet, with our bodies, with our commitment to make things better. And this can’t be done only through words, as Yarden has taught us, but through a commitment to action. With our whole being for a better tomorrow.


  1. Through the tears I thank you Romi! You have given me the words and emotion-through-words I didn't have in order to share with my relatives and friends abroad about this past weekend. You and Josh have proven yourselves the best, loyal, dedicated friends that anyone can have. Stella, Yarden and their kids are truly as privileged to have you at their sides as you are to have them as heroic friends. I am in awe of all of you.

  2. Romi just beautiful- thank you for writing this piece!

  3. Rushing to catch him, she realized that he was standing tall, proud, strong, for the siren that he had been trained to listen to, as one does on Memorial Day. As a bomb was about to fall nearby, this child was standing at attention, honoring his ancestors as he had been taught.

    I am sobbing.
    This entire post is so, so beautiful.
    Too teary eyed to say more.