A woman sits on a cheap plastic chair in the courtyard of our twin Sephardi-Ashkenazi synagogues. Her shiva-torn black T-shirt is held together with a safety pin. In her cheap black yoga pants and black rubber flip flops, her fake nails half on, half broken, she could not be more dignified or beautiful. Her round chocolate brown eyes do not shine, but neither are they dull. Instead, they reflect the strength and determination of hundreds of Jewish women of today and of a thousand years ago.
She does not cry. Instead, she says, “I am thankful that my husband was killed by a missile, not tortured by those terrorists. He is in a good place now. I was from Beer Sheva, but he was from Sderot. He grew up there. He wanted to live next to his parents. They had come to Sderot straight from Morocco. Yes, we lived in Sderot. Yes… we lived there.”
Her eldest child is a 21-year-old beauty, a youthful version of the mother. She sits on her chair, knees up to her chest, same black torn T-shirt, same cheap black yoga pants, same fake nails, half on, half broken. Her eyes are downcast. She is tired. She really does not want to talk. She is just being polite. She had just been released from the army, and was hanging around Sderot working menial jobs. She repeats, probably for the hundredth time, that her sweet father, a good man, was going about his regular Shabbat routine when the missile struck him.
She looks away from me and pulls out a cell phone, her constant companion. Next to her sits her 19-year-old brother. With pitch-black hair and charcoal eyes, he is dressed in a torn black T-shirt, black jeans and black flip-flops. He is handsome, a beautiful young man with chiseled muscular arms. He is sturdy. He is tough. At his side, he clutches a huge machine gun close to his body. I don’t know what type, but definitely the kind that could do a lot of damage. He was on army duty in Judea and Shomron when his father was killed.
His sister passes him a cigarette and I wince. But this is not the time for a lecture on the evils of smoking. There is no grief in his dark eyes. He does not want to talk. The army has taken him off duty for now. Good decision. The look in his eyes frightens me.
His new responsibilities are his two little brothers, eight and six years old. They run up to him and show him the junk food they just bought at the uber expensive convenience store beneath the hotel that is their new temporary residence. He shakes his head, but then, a very reluctant smile crosses his lips. The bigger boy wants some sort of approval for his purchases. “Ok, Ok,” he says. He lets out a smirk when he sees that his little brother has brought him back the change – a shekel – while he starts munching on a candy hamburger.
“Do you need anything? Skirts? Dresses?” I implore, hoping to do something, anything for the beautiful young daughter. “No thank you.” “Do you need a clean white shirt for Shabbat?” The soldier doesn’t even look up. Instead, he shakes his head.
“Do you need any clothes for Shabbat?” I ask once again, this time to the mother. Perhaps this time, I can do something. She replies,” I will manage with what I have.”I look at her, and I can see that she will. She is an Eshet Chayil. But now, she has no one to sing the traditional Friday night tribute to her. It is time to end the shiva visit. My seat is taken, and there is a crowd behind me that will take my place