The Situation

Hannah Schlacter image
Hannah Schlacter is currently a camp counselor in Israel with JUF's Kefiada.

We’re in the eye of the hurricane.

The Brazil-Germany World Cup game is playing in the background. The licked-clean ice cream dishes lie in the sink. The little ones are slowly falling asleep together in the family room under the Lightning McQueen and Barbie comforter blankets. The long, thick hair has been braided. Teeth have been brushed. Facebook messages sent and status updated.

But no one will be sleeping tonight.

Yesterday evening was the first siren. I was sitting outside on the patio, surrounded by my Israeli and American peers. A guitar’s strings and notes filled the air along with the faint smells of hookah. Peace had overcome us—not naiveté. And then came the siren faintly blaring. All 20 of us swiftly rushed inside the house, squeezed inside the laundry room, clutching my Israeli friend’s hand, trying to ease my breathing back to normal. I just wasn’t expecting it. Not then—not in that moment.

And yet.

A week before I lay gazing up at the blanket of stars protecting the ancient land of Lachish. Below me was the oversized, multicolored picnic blanket. Next to me was a nice boy telling me about his future plans … high school, service, travel. Behind me was the taboun, where the dough darkened and hardened into pita, waiting to be smothered in cheese, tomatoes and pesto. Around me was the classic ‘80s sing-along music, Chicago and Israeli English accents filling the air. The yellow and orange and red sun had set, and serenity had become of us.

And yet.

This evening happened. My phone buzzing with my IDF and YNet News Twitter notifications. The TV screen re-playing the images of the two terrorists climbing on the beach in Ashkelon. My ears hearing the bombs landing in Gaza when I stepped outside. Cozying in the blanket with my younger host sister, scratching her back and kissing her keppe. We’re family here.

And there are tears. The anxiety. Will the soldiers—the very soldiers my own age—be okay? The ones I befriended, who kindly laughed at my three-word Hebrew sentences, who I hung out with last night? And then there was the siren in Tel Aviv. And again. The siren in Jerusalem. Everyone was okay.

And now there is now. The Twitter notifications have stopped. My watch beeps midnight. It’s a new day. It’s a very special boy’s eighth birthday in our home. The aroma of chocolate cake fills the house, the “Happy Birthday” banner is hung, and the colorful stream of Hawaiian flowers are woven around the kitchen.

I am experiencing the uncertain. Not the terror. From Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles, and from Rananna to Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I know that loved ones are experiencing this uncertainty too. Awareness and love and prayer are all what is needed at this time – for the children having bad dreams tonight; for the siblings whose older brother is stationed at the border with Gaza; for the couples whose weddings were canceled; for the parents having to switch the TV channel between the Disney Cartoons and Channel 2 news.

It’s the uncertainty that is overpowered by hope, strength and determination. This is the Israeli reality and resilience.

Until the morning. Laila tov.

Hannah Schlacter, of Riverwoods, is a James Scholar at the College of Business of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently is in Israel volunteering as a camp counselor through the JUF’s Kefiada Program in Kiryat Gat.

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