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Stuck on Israel

Last night, I volunteered at Detroit’s evening of Solidarity with Israel. After attendees passed through a strict security screening process, I gave them each a sticker bearing the logo shown above. Fellow volunteers gave out over 2,700 stickers to Israel supporters.

While the world looks bleak now for all world Jewry, and while radical Islamists spread their fiery hatred for Jews just like the Hitler Youth did in the 1930’s, it soothed my soul to see so many: Jewish, non-Jewish, black and white, coming together for a few hours to support the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East in her war on terrorism.

By the way, my daughter is still on her trip in Israel. She just returned safely to Jerusalem after a sea-to-sea hike in the North.


Last weekend, she did spend some time in a bomb shelter. She heard the Iron Dome obliterate an incoming misile.  But then, after they got the clear, she and a family she was staying with went on with life.

Here is my most recent piece published in the Detroit Jewish News.

A few weeks ago, my parents, husband, son and I were riding down the Belt Parkway in New York to take our 17-year-old daughter to JFK. She was about to embark on Ramah’s six-week Israel Seminar, a trip she knew she wanted to do since she was about nine years old. The news that Hamas murdered the three teenaged boys was less than 24 hours old. Seated in the middle row with my mom, I curled my hand into hers. I just kept squeezing it.
The scene at the departure terminal, though chaotic, was almost healing. Hundreds of Jewish teens about to leave for Israel on one trip or another greeted each other with smiles and hugs.
Expressions on the faces of the parents revealed one thing: we all knew our relatively carefree Jewish American kids were headed to Israel in a time of national mourning. Who could predict that a war would unfold in just days after their arrival?
What have I been doing since she left?
It has been a surreal time. While the program posts photos of the kids having fun on hikes and gazing over the Haifa skyline, while my daughter calls me from Jerusalem telling me about the fantastic time she had working with the children at the Ramah Israel Day camp in Jerusalem, friends in Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Be’er Sheva post on Facebook about dashing for stairwells or shelters when the sirens blare.
On my wrist, I wear a blue Stand With Us rubber bracelet showing my support for Israel. My watch is set to Jerusalem time so I know the best time to call my daughter. My cell phone has become an appendage to my body. I pray daily for her safety, for all of Israel and her Defense Forces.
I thank Ramah Seminar in Israel for their tireless efforts of keeping our kids safe and having as an enjoyable and educational experience as possible while constantly keeping parents in the loop of the changing security situation. After an extended stay in their northern base in the Hodayot Youth Village, the “seminarniks” finally traveled safely to their home base in Jerusalem on July 15. In fact, a parent conference call to update us on the matzav started just as the IDF launched their ground offensive into Gaza.
But life goes on. I have taken the cue from my Israeli friends who endure this daily threat to keep moving on through routine and simple distractions. If my Israeli psychologist friend, an olah from New York, can help spread calm by teaching Yoga to women in a bomb shelter in Sderot, I too will try to find Zen on my mat. I work in my garden and take walks.
Even as the bombs fall, and the inevitability that she may spend some time this summer in a bomb shelter is very real, I have no regrets that my daughter is in Israel. I will not deny the danger or my worry. I know that this time in Israel will be a transformative one for her that can only strengthen her understanding of what it means to be a Jew and never take our Jewish homeland for granted.
When midnight here rolls around, my mind is already seven hours ahead wondering what the dawning day on the other side of the planet will hold for Israel. If you too have a loved one in Israel and find yourself up in the middle of the night, I’m sleepless right there with you.

Finally the dreams have stopped

When I woke up the morning on 9/12, like everyone else, I wished the whole thing was a dream.

Then, at night, images of the World Trade Center entered my dreams at least twice a month, for the next nine years.

It’s no wonder I dreamed about these iconic buildings, buildings I grew up with, beamed with pride at.

But the last time I saw them was looking out at them from my grandmother’s hospital window. It was July of 2001. Though they passed away years later, my grandparent’s health in earnest began to fail that summer. As I held her hand,I said to her “Hey, at least you have a great view of downtown. Look at the Towers. Look how beautiful they are.”

And they were on that day, across the East River. So crisp a view.

And just a few weeks before September 11, my dad had a heart attack. He did survive, to teach, to live, to continue biking and traveling, and enjoying his grandchildren. But I think it was the attacks of 9/11 that truly broke his heart.

So, is it any wonder my brain created for years images of the World Trade Center?

Sometimes in my dreams I would be falling, floating up, up, up, past desks and cubicles and giant, narrow office windows.

Other times, I’d be in an elevator, thinking, I shouldn’t be here, I need to get out of here.

In some dreams, I’d be outside, and there they were, the Twin Towers, just there, like they were a backdrop in a movie.

Or, they would appear as ghost buildings with police barricades around them. I’d walk past them and yell at them. Go away. You are gone. You shouldn’t be here any more.

Upon wakening, I wouldn’t always remember that I dreamed right away. Of course, it would hit me in the middle of my day. I’d be in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, and I would stop dead. Cold. Oh, God. I dreamed about them. I dreamed about the Towers again.

But now, 10 years later, the dreams have stopped. They stopped when Osama bin Laden was finally, justly, wiped from the face of the earth. They stopped when finally, Ground Zero was no longer just an empty, gaping hole but the beginnings of the newly emerging Freedom Tower. New York is rising again.

I know that putting a building back up cannot bring back the souls lost on 9/11, but it is my hope that this new, so carefully thought out complex of buildings and memorials can help ease the dreams and memories of so many of the families from tomorrow and onward. I wish them only the sweetest of dreams.

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