Monday, July 17, 2006

Land of the Free…Because of the Brave

I moved to Jerusalem in 1970…a lifetime ago. Three years later I was married, a new mommy, and at war!

That Yom Kippur afternoon my husband and I left our little son with his Savta (grandmother) in the shuk, where she still lives, and together with another couple went for a walk downtown to help pass the time during our fast.

Two o’clock found us walking down Yaffo Street right at the big X crossroads of Yaffo/King George.

Silence. Let me try to describe the silence of Yom Kippur in Israel. Nothing moves. The only vehicles on the road are ambulances. Not a radio or television is turned on. No food is bubbling on a stove. The only sound is the voice of people davening in the shuls all over the city.


At exactly two o’clock in the afternoon that silence was shattered by the wailing of a siren rising and falling…rising and falling.

The men grabbed us and we ran to take cover in an open doorway of one of the closed shops.

What’s going on? What is it?

‘It’s Syria and Egypt. They’re at war!’ my husband informed me. And, added that we’d better make our way back to the shuk.
‘Let Syria and Egypt kill each other! What do I care? What’s that got to do with us?’ I naively asked.
‘No, darling. They’re at war with us!’

With us? Waddya mean, with us? It took me all the way running back up the street to where my baby and family were to come to terms with those two words. What did I know? No one went to war with Canada? The only war I ever heard about in my house was WWII, the big one, from my Dad.


Since then I have learned the sights and sounds of war in this country. The look on people’s faces…brothers and sisters, who were strangers a few minutes ago, as we share a common destiny.

The radio too goes into war mode. The songs change. They get quieter, more nostalgic.

Today we haven’t used the word WAR. No one has stamped what we are living in as a war. But the sights and sounds are back. The minute I turned on Galei Zahal, the army station, or any of the other radio stations, I heard it immediately.

Back in ’73, when we returned to the shuk I went to turn on the radio. Everyone looked at me in horror. Turn on a radio, electricity, on Yom Kippur???

I told them in my best Hebrew that if there was nothing going on then nothing would be on the radio. But if there was, I figured somebody better know.

I turned the dial and all the people in the room froze as we heard a kind of Morse Code sound… ‘Da/da/da/da/da…Black Snake! Da/da/da/da/da…Purple Cloud’

Passwords calling the different army units to go to their drop off points.

I will never forget the sound of that radio. Or the sound of the siren going off. Or the terror of taking my husband to his unit.

Yesterday I heard it again. Sirens over Haifa. People running for cover. A Bubbie and her little grandson murdered in their home by a katyusha falling on them.

Jerusalem is still quiet. We go about our lives as if nothing has changed. As usual. But we have the look and we have the sound. I know them by now. Three years of being bombed and terrorized in Jerusalem taught me real good.

I live with my brothers and sisters up north every second of every day now. I don’t know them but I ache for them.

I ran into one of my neighbours yesterday. He looked terrible.
‘Itzik, what’s wrong?’
‘Your daughter? What about her?’
‘She was up north working with her TV crew and has shrapnel in her leg. They brought her to Hadassah and they’re deciding whether or not to operate.’
‘Oy, Itzik. I’m so sorry. Refuah shleymah (a complete recovery) and give Chanah my love. Let me know what’s happening.’

Bunni’s daughter and her family are up near Carmiel. Being bombed.
Her other daughter is going back to Netanya this morning with her family, even though they know that the bastards can reach them now too.
Riki’s parents and family are being bombed in Safed.

It is 5:41 in the morning. I hear a plane overhead. It’s friendly…not in a hurry. Maybe taking tourists back to the states. Not a fighter on its way up north. That plane has a different sound… like a loud whoosh in the sky.

Dear G-d, please take care of our families up north. Please bring back our three kidnapped soldiers, safe and sound. See, G-d, we won’t let them win. We can’t.
This is our home.

And we will keep it free. Because of our brave.

Have a good day…stay safe…and thanks for dropping in.


At 11:51 PM, Anonymous john said...

You have said more in your piece than any self-styled expert could say in his. You have really brought this home to those of us who never went through the trauma of '73.

Let's hope that soon we'll be talking about my cat, Fluff.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous harold said...

So good to hear from you. Keep safe Harold

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous sydonia said...

just read this on your blog site----start late today so was just spending a few minutes doodling-----poignant writing-----my heart is crying-----for the friend I used to walk home with from Hugh Beaton huddling in the shadows, dark silence broken by sounds of war, trying to get back to her own baby----then all the babies in the world now with guns and bombs in their hands fighting for peace----------will we ever be back to the tree lined lanes of Windermere?
love you always----praying for peace in your heart

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous the guv said...

A few days ago, I shared a meal with two, intelligent female friends of mine. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before we were discussing the situation in your part of the world.
" I feel that Israel's retaliation for those kidnappings was altogether disproportionate", stated my Gentile friend, who, I must state here, has always been truly comfortable with, and supportive of, most things Jewish. Well, I certainly had come across THAT particular sentiment in the media more than once in the last week, and I began what I truly believed was a clear, definitive answer. I continued. Gave her some more valuable information. She couldn't, or wouldn't, get it.
Meanwhile, my Jewish friend, wasn't saying a word. I tried to draw her into the conversation. She wouldn't jump into the word pool. " I'm not attached to Israel at all", she stated at one point. " I have no emotional ties to it whatsoever". She, too, couldn't, or wouldn't get it.

After a while, I simply gave up. It was, after all, supposed to be a pleasant dinner party, and I could see that I had spilled ants all over the picnic table, so to speak. Besides, I realized that no matter how long we sat at that table, no matter how clever or persistent or emotional or glib-tongued I became, they still wouldn't, or couldn't, get it. I dropped it. And I have been fretting ever since.

Those two intelligent people represent hundreds of thousands of others around the world, who, well-meaning as they may be, just don't understand.

If I could go back to my two friends at that dinner table, I would re-iterate and re-emphasize these few things :

This IS NOT only Israel's battle. This fight against evil is EVERYONE'S business. Israel just happens to be the WORLD'S David against the WORLD'S Goliath.

And, I would be remiss if I didn't remind my Jewish friend that, even if she DOESN'T have any particular attachment to Israel presently, if the day ever came that she and all her family members had to flee Canada, that little country that plays NO part in her world now, would, ironically, become the ONLY part of the world that would welcome them with open arms.

But, I did not return to that table, and I'm still stewing. I am also still praying.

The Guv

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous richard said...

Shalom Marallyn
Sandy is away in Dallas on business but we both wanted you and your family to know that we are watching events in Israel constantly and feel, as many Canadians and Americans do, that Israel is doing the right thing in destroying the terrorists that threaten it. It probably should have been done sooner but we recognize that Israel holds itself to a high moral standard and has been unwilling to risk the collateral damage to civilians in the past. I think it has become obvious to many that this tactic does not work when the terrorists could care less about the civilians around them or the lives of Israeli civilians. It is obvious that Syria and Iran are worried as they are both back pedaling and denying that they are behind this.
Stay safe and encourage the government of Israel not to back down.
All the best...


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