Coming on aliyah has been a dream for many
decades and over seven years ago I started a countdown calendar that began with
Day 3,052 …
We have now been here 72 days and experienced
the joy of arrival and the heartbreak that every Israeli is enduring. We were
overwhelmed as to how the country unified itself when three young boys were
kidnapped; my wife, Zenia, and I were constantly following the news on every
source we could connect to. We participated in daily prayers, we supported the
soldiers by supplying snacks to various units; Zenia was at a women’s study
session outside of the late Naftali’s home when the news broke of their murder.
We shook, cried and hugged each of our grandchildren a bit tighter each of the
nights during this period. We joined with our community and stood with Israeli
flags as Gilad’s body came past our community on the way to the cemetery, each
community along the route did the same in support of the family.
In the last week, we have prepared our “safe
room” in our house. It is in our basement and has a bed, phone, a few chairs,
water and snacks. The door to the room is steel and the window is covered with a
steel cover and it has special lighting and ventilation. If a siren is heard,
we have 90 seconds to secure ourselves in the room. If we are outside of our
house, the schools and synagogues have bomb shelters that are open 24 hours a
Last Tuesday night, leaving Jerusalem, we
heard the end of a siren. Wednesday morning we could hear an iron dome shooting
down a rocket over Tel Aviv (we live about a 40 minute ride from both Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv). This morning, I was in Tel Aviv meeting with the Jewish
Federations of North America campaign chairs and directors mission, which
include JUF’s Sherryl Steinberg and three of our lay leaders. As I entered the
hotel the siren went off; hundreds of guests huddled together in the lower
level of the hotel while others were in stairways. Some were in clothes, and others
in swimwear or robes. We heard a large thud and knew the iron dome was at work.
All of the mission programming was changed so they would only be in places
where shelters were available. Their visit to the graves of the three boys was
cancelled as the cemetery had no shelter.
As I was walking on the street a few hours
later, another siren went off and everyone in the street took shelter in the
backs and basements of store. I heard another thud from the iron dome.
You try and go about life normally, but there
is no normalcy; all of our friends and neighbors have children or grandchild in
the army. Today, our community is preparing food for 150 soldiers for two
Shabbat meals. As soldiers were called up with no warning, collections are
being made to supply them with the basics of underwear, socks, toiletries and
This past Sunday a group of kids came to our
community to get away from their constant time in shelters. Neighbors are
housing family that just need a break from the constant barrage of missile
attacks. Our agencies on the ground, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee are busy helping the elderly,
providing medical care, moving the kids around the country out of harm’s way
and providing whatever is needed to assist our people. Their work makes us all
As I am writing, I just got an emergency emall
from our community. (Yes, we are on an emergency alert list.) The neighboring
community, a 10-minute drive from our house, was alerted minutes ago by sirens.
We were notified and told that the sirens here are in working order, if need be.
It is hot tonight, but we will probably sleep
with our windows open to listen for the siren; in the next few days we will be
getting gas masks.
Whenever I come to Israel, the guide always
says, “you have come at an interesting time” … yes, we came at a very interesting time, but
we came as Jews and Zionists, and we have always supported Israel from afar. Now
is our opportunity to stand strong with the people of Israel to protect our
Each of us must remember that the work we do
is holy; we are the connection for tens of thousands of Jews in Chicago to
Israel, and it is for us to stand strong with Israel.
With a Prayer for the safety of our people,