Hey Mister Caleb,

This trip is the longest that we’ve ever been apart. Last year, I took a weekend retreat for two days, and I felt like I came home to a completely different person. You grow so fast. You’re 17 months now, and I know you’re not old enough to read this, nor do you have the attention span to get through all these words on one page–even if I were to throw on the page colorful lions and balloons. But I do know you are old enough to understand lots of things. For instance, you know:

  • Cars are cool; trucks are even cooler.
  • Food can taste either really good or really bad; either way, it belongs on the floor.
  • It’s fun to play and laugh and sing.
  • It feels good to hug.

And you’ve learned some tough lessons so far too:

  • Hospitals are the worst.
  • Teething is painful; actually, a lot of things are.
  • Being alone is scary; a lot of things are scary too.

I want you to know why I’m away this week. It has to do with some of the things you already know. And the lessons you’ll learn as you keep growing.

“IT IS NOT GOOD FOR A HUMAN BEING TO BE ALONE. (Genesis)

Caleb, you’re right – being alone is scary. As you get older, you’ll feel scared less often, but sometimes you find yourself alone, scared, and sad.  That’s called being lonely. I am on a trip with 12 American Reform Rabbis who want to tell Israelis that they are not alone. It won’t take away their fears, but it may lessen their loneliness. You know what that’s like– when you wake up in the middle of the night and feel like no one’s there, and it’s really dark. You stand up and cry with all your strength. Eventually one of us, mommy or me, comes into your room. We don’t always pick you up; sometimes we just rub your back. Or we just sit there, by your crib, singing the Shema or James Taylor. You fall asleep because you’re less lonely.

You have a lot of friends– all the people who run to greet you when you show up at daycare. Israel is a country that does not have many friends. They’re surrounded by people who are not nice to them. And they have seen on the TV (that we don’t let you watch that much) people all over the world, telling them how much they don’t like Israel.

“STILL, THERE WILL BE HEARD IN…THE STREETS OF JERUSALEM…THE SHOUTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE PLAYING.” (Sheva Brachot, 7 Wedding Blessings)

I’m sorry, Caleb, for not giving you more time on the playground last week. You were so mad at me you threw your water bottle at my face. I deserved that. Because playing is probably the most important thing you can do in life; that and hugging. When kids can play, it means everything: they are safe, nourished, happy.

Today in Israel children aren’t as safe and happy as they usually are because on the other side of a great big fence there are some people who want to hurt them. I don’t know how to explain why people want to hurt each other. But I know that we can also make each other feel better. Things can break, but things can be fixed (like your truck with the missing wheel, which I promise to put back on when I get back home). Sometimes people can be broken, and sometimes they can be fixed too.

“EL MALEI RACHAMIM, SHOCHEIN BAMROMIM- GOD IS FULL OF LOVE AND HOVERS ABOVE US” (Funeral Liturgy)

It matters to me, Caleb, that one day you understand that most of these people on the other side of the fence are just like us in many ways. They like playing with cars; they think trucks are cool. But they also have seen a lot of cars and trucks that aren’t toys, that aren’t cool. They don’t get to eat like we do, and they don’t have 4 different kinds of sippy cups. The people on the other side of the fence do not have a lot of play time. They spend more time in hospitals than we can imagine. They don’t have the life that we have.

Many of them have died. That means that they’re not here anymore. Their families are still here, but they are lonelier now. They are angrier too. Some of the people on the other side of the fence are so angry that they want to hurt the Israelis. Many of Israelis who are fighting to keep their families safe have died trying. Their families are lonely now too, and they have so much pain– like how it feels when your teething, only it’s in their heart.

There are some people in Israel who want to hurt the people on the other side of the fence. Many of them really have. I wish that were not true. Lots of my friends forget that part of the story. I only want to tell you the truth.

“BARUCH ATAH ADONAI OSEH HASHALOM- BLESSED ARE YOU, MAKER OF PEACE” (Birkat Shalom)

The truth is, there is so much crying here. Whenever you cry, we pick you up and give you a hug. The reason why I am here with other rabbis is to hug the Israelis, and to see how Israelis are hugging each other.

I miss hugging you, more now than ever before. I’ll come home on Friday, in time for mommy and me to bless you, hug and kiss you, and sing Shabbat songs together. We will sing a gentle song for Israel, for both sides of the fence. You won’t know the words, but that’s okay because you know how to clap your hands.

Love,

Dad