A Little Peace and Thanksgiving

Baruch Hashem, it’s been quiet here for the past week. We all had a few mixed feelings when the cease fire was announced last week, because we partially wanted Israel to just go in and finish the job they started, but thankful that we wouldn’t hear the wail of the siren in the coming days.

We were unhappy for several reasons. First of all, Hamas learned some lessons during this war that are not beneficial to Israel. Primarily, they learned that they can fire over 1500 rockets into Israel in an 8 day period and not get so much as a potch (smack) on the wrist. They also learned that Egypt (see below: the real winner of the “war”) and the United States will push for a cease fire and try to get Israel to not ‘invade’ by foot. (I put the word invade in parenthesis because can a country ‘invade’ a part of their own borders? Would the U.S. be ‘invading’ Puerto Rico? Arizona? Just something to think about.)

Egypt really won this war because the world recognized their leader (an open member of the Muslim Brotherhood) as a vital contribution to the “peace” process between Israelis and Palestinians. No surprise that less than a week later, he declared himself a dictator by saying that none of the courts can contradict any decision that he makes as leader.

As for the amount of quiet we’ve had, there’s still some unrest along the Gaza/Sinai border, and not all of the soldiers that were called up from the army have gone home. Most recently, there was some distress on the Gaza/Israel border (see above comment for why I sigh/roll my eyes while I write this) and Israeli soldiers were needed to calm down the situation. We haven’t had a siren in Jerusalem, and I don’t think there have been sirens in the south since the day after the cease fire either.

Even throughout the whole ordeal, we weren’t fearful. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t afraid, but we weren’t full of fear. A friend of mine, who I’ll tell you about in a second, almost found herself outside during the second siren, because she had to go to the butcher. Once the siren was over, she ran out, and while she was waiting for the butcher to ring up her food, she let out a sigh, almost as if she’d been holding her breath the whole way there, afraid there would be another siren. The butcher (a Chassidic man), told her it’s okay to be scared. He said, “You can be scared because it’s scary. But to be paralyzed in fear is not good. To not do things because of the fear is bad.” In other words, being paralyzed because of fear makes you think that you are in control. To be aware but unparalyzed is to see that you are most certainly not.

We’re coming to visit America next week for two weeks, and my mom asked me if we’d had a conversation about not going back because of the war. I told her no. She asked if we would be having that conversation — and I told her it wasn’t in our radar. That it was a conversation that would not happen.

There is a clarity that comes from being in a time of crisis. Over the past week, we were scared, but we still felt safe. We’d have to be idiots to not feel safe after seeing all of the miracles that happened all over Israel. To say that over 1500 rockets fell in and around highly populated cities all over a country that’s the size of New Jersey and only six people died is miraculous. A bus blew up in Tel Aviv and only injured some of the people on board. That rockets aimed at the holy city of Jerusalem landed in Arab territory; there’s no other way to understand it. The army might say it’s because of the Iron Dome, that they are strong, and able, but we know that it’s because there’s a greater “Iron Dome” out there, looking out for all of us. We have to hold on to this clarity.

These are all things to be thankful for. Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Israel (not even in Har Nof, which is made up of A LOT of Americans!), our group of friends from Philadelphia decided to get together for a Shabbaton and eat Thanksgiving-themed food. Everyone made a dish or two, and it was a lot of fun. Jonathan and I made the turkey and gravy, and others contributed stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and onions, butternut squash soup, and salad. For dessert, we had our choice of either lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, pumpkin bread pudding with a dulce de leche sauce, or chocolate chip cookies. To say that we were full at the end of Shabbos would be the biggest understatement of the year, probably.

Throughout the whole experience, all I could think about is how grateful I am that all of our best friends got the opportunity to come to Israel at the same time, and that we’re all quite literally in this together. Just to give you a little bit of background: In college, I met two girls who very quickly became my best friends. They are now here, in Israel, with us. One of those girls, Hannah, is married to a guy that I grew up with, from kindergarten through college. Obviously, he’s here too and he is one of Jonathan’s best friends. Another one of our very good friends from college is here also, along with one more couple. And we all went to college together. Now, we’re all in seminary together. Quite literally, Hashem gave us this incredible support system in college as we were becoming more observant together, and continued to give us this support system through getting married (for some of us, and for others, soon!), and now, going to Israel.

So when we want to go to the supermarket and have to take those four buses to do so (and to share a cab home!), there’s someone to do it with. When we want to go shopping for a skirt, or for gifts for family and friends, there’s someone there. Need to vent? Not a problem. Missed a class? Here’s the notes. And all coming together for a meal that we all had a part in was a beautiful materialization of that reality. And it was a lot of fun.

We missed our family and friends in America, but we’re lucky to have a kind of Philadelphia, mismatched, quirky, and fun family here. And a lot of things to be thankful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for.


Rose among the Thorns

I FINALLY got to talk to my sister this morning. Becca left for Israel last Sunday, and she’s going for the trip of a lifetime.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but I’m a little bit of an anal-retentive person, and have trouble writing when I can’t think of the perfect first line. Big surprise, right? I have writer’s block.

But I owe this post to Becca. I think that the problem is, I want this blog to be about me. I don’t mean that I wanted it to be about me in that I want all the attention that surrounds it, but more because I want to very clearly respect the rule that “once something is put on the internet, it can never be taken down.” And that’s a big rule to remember!

The truth is, Becca really needs this year. And I think that, just having been gone for close to four days, she’s starting to realize how much she needs this year.

To say that the past few have been difficult for her would be an understatement, but that’s her story, not mine, and I’m not going to share it here.

Before she left, I had our family go around and play the “love game” about her; where we each said one thing we love about Becca and one thing that we’re going to miss about her while she’s gone. After some tears and some laughter, we realized even more than we thought, just how much we’re going to miss her.

Rivka, the matriarch that Becca gets her Hebrew name from, is referred to as the rose among the thorns. Isaac chose to marry her because she cared for animals before she cared for humans, and his servant adorned her with nose-jewelry (yes, the biblical Rebecca had a nose-ring!) so that Isaac would know who she was. They teach that your name plays a large part in determining what kind of person you will be; I think that my sister would make her namesake proud.

She’s in the most incredible place in the entire world, Israel, where the land itself contains a mystique that no other place can capture. It’s the center of the world, both literally and figuratively, and now more than ever, the entire world’s eyes rest on Israel.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Israel four times, and each time I came back a little bit changed. I remember standing at the Kotel for the first time and thinking that it was smaller than I’d expected, and then going back most recently and crying into its crevices, awed by it’s sheer magnitude. I remember staring at the cotton-candy-colored Negev sky and realizing that there had to have been something out there that inserted order and brilliance into the crazy world that we live in.

It’s very appropriate that Becca left for Israel during the Hebrew month of Elul. Every month has a pasuk, or a line of Hebrew, that goes along with it, kind of like a slogan, using the month’s name as an acronym. The pasuk for Elul is, “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” which is traslated to, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me,” a line that is usually used to refer to the relationship between a husband and wife. During the month of Elul, it’s representative of the potential of a relationship between humankind and G-d. This relationship has even more potential in the land of Israel.

Keeping all of that in mind, this year is going to be so much FUN for my sister. Think about it, who wouldn’t want to get away from it all for a while and just seize every opportunity! There’s nothing mundane or methodical about the year she’s going to have, no daily routine. And that’s something I would LOVE to get rid of!

So, Becca, before I continue I want to let you know (again) how much I love you and how proud of you I am. I also would like to gently urge you to start a travel blog to keep me, Jonathan, mom, dad, and all of your friends updated on the fabulous things you are doing.

I just thought I’d end with a list of things I wish I knew when I was my sister’s age, starting a new chapter in my life.

1.) It’s okay to be different, and to reinvent yourself often. Life’s boring if you never change.
2.) Just like you, the world will change around you. It’s okay, and not something to be scared of.
3.) Make new friends, but don’t forget your roots. The people you grew up with often play a large role in who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.
4.) Go off the beaten path. It’s okay to get in a little bit of trouble. (I don’t think my sister has trouble with this one at all!)
5.) There is such a thing as responsible trouble. Only take a large risk if you know you won’t get caught!
6.) Drink lots and lots of water.
7.) Wear sunscreen!
8.) Tell the people you love that you love them. Often.
9.) Spend more money on experiences than on objects. Memories last longer than any bracelet, t-shirt, or bumper sticker will.
10.) Don’t forget to look around – G-d created this world just for us to enjoy the things in it. Don’t miss what’s right in front of you.