Let me peek out from behind the recipe scene here on Kosher.com to introduce myself. I’m a Jersey girl raising a family in Israel.
That statement has taken on a new significance in the last 3 weeks.
How are we doing?
Well, I’m a mother to kids under 10, and my day-to-day was not immediately impacted by the recent horrors (a fact most humbling for which I am grateful beyond words). When we made Aliya, my husband was too old to be drafted to the IDF. So my personal reality is vastly different to that of others you may ask. (Ask. Check in. Believe us when we tell you it means the world, even now.)
Where I live, we have occasional air raids and security incidents. Army aircraft power overhead. Schools were closed for a while and are now allowed open dependent on meeting specified safety conditions, and many for reduced hours, which of course means a confusing balagan reminiscent of the Covid era (still fresh in our minds). There are temporary goods shortages due to the supply chain coping with a sudden lack of manpower.
Like in your communities abroad, there are boundless chessed and volunteering opportunities, round-the-clock Torah learning, and Tehillim recitations.
I am internally juggling conflicting realities, holding space for devastation, terror, anxiety; tapping into emunah, tefillah, and comfort in the mission of our people; and lastly, keeping up with the everyday realities of a family with small children, some with “extra” needs, who don’t comprehend the gravity of this moment.
(You know the drill. Mr. 6 decides that when he requested this cereal he really meant that cereal and won’t eat it. This one needs a blood test and the orthodontist needs to reschedule; a curious selective amnesia about the location of the laundry hamper; everything I eat tastes like cardboard, yet they still want supper every night?)
I am grateful beyond words for family life.
I can’t sleep more than a few hours a night.
I want to do more “for the national effort” and I give where and what I can, which feels laughably too little in the gaping lack, but our children come first. This war is not their business; but it is happening around them and, in essence, for them.
So I carry the heaviness and share with them the basic headlines, then fill the silence with Eyal Golan’s new song on repeat and get busy with coloring sheets and reviewing fractions. while my heart is in the South and the border and the hospital and what may come tomorrow. I play Itsy Bitsy Spider and read stories and take many, many deep bracing breaths and try to look my children in the eyes and only check the news once a day.
My mind wanders to the past, and I wonder suddenly how our ancestors found the strength to bury their dead and clean up their villages after each pogrom and whether those brave mamas would decide just to serve kasha that night.
I think I know the answers.
So I go out to buy more cereal, fill prescriptions. The shopping center feels foreign; I haven’t ventured out in a few days. The market only has this cereal in stock, of course. The health clinic is not empty, but everyone moves with a sense of purpose, accomplishing but not lingering. The roads are eerily quiet; the nearby construction site silent.
My preschooler is turning 4 today, so I also pick up a crown, a Hello Kitty nail polish set, and a white helium balloon that says “Yom Huledet Sameach.” I tie it around the handle of one of my bags.
Outside with my shopping, I am waiting for the bus when my ears tune in the opening wail of an air raid siren. After a heartbeat, my brain recognizes the sound and I move swiftly to the nearest building entrance, my balloon trailing behind, bouncing against the shrubs.
I wait calmly in the stairwell with a woman carrying a full length mirror in a shopping bag, another with two school age girls and a newborn. We are quiet, waiting, me with my balloon proclaiming a special day awaits me at home. Another deep breath out. We hear the booms of the rocket exploding.
I am proud to live in the land of Israel. I am raising my family in the land of our forefathers, and I will bear the burden of the complexity of our national mission until my children are ready to share it.
I will cook nourishing dinners and give out snacks, and I will treat them on their birthdays, and tomorrow I will buy my toddler’s first shoes, and next week – we will see what next week brings, but we will meet it with joy and the dignity of a people guided by eternal truth. We hardly have a choice; these are the principles of our lifeblood.
So, how are we holding up here in Israel? When we are inspired, we uplift one another. When we feel low, we seek comfort and an understanding ear. Forgive us if we are scattered and distracted. We’re in the middle of the story.
Don’t forget us. You are in the middle, too.
(And you can bet I went home and baked my birthday girl a chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.)