B’lev echad

Silence.  Unusually silent.  Disquieting.  For someone used to hearing the sirens screeching their way to Laniado Hospital and the giggling of teenagers flirting on the Tyelet, it was eerily depressing.  The sound made by relentless waves crashing onto shore was magnified threefold.  From my 13th floor perch, I could survey the streets as far as Netanya’s once magnificent Blue Bay hotel.  Nothing moved.  No cars.  No people.  Even the ever-annoying cat population seemed to sense that they should stay hidden.

Despite having my daughter Shira and husband David to share the quarantine with me, my mood going into the holiday was bleak.  We should have been 17 – 8 from outside Israel.  Two from Nashville.  My son Elie from Manhattan and 5 friends from the UK.  I had been looking forward to it for months.  Since making Aliya three and a half years ago, we were finally returning to our typical Seder size.  Even more depressing, this was the first Pesach we were going to be spending with our 18-month-old twin grandsons, our daughter Aviva and son-in-law Ari having made Aliya in early January.  But Corona Virus changed all that.

No more visiting the grandchildren.  No more wandering aimlessly around the mall.  Gone are the long morning runs on the beach, sharing gossip and laughter with good friends.  Only to be replaced by endless TV episodes of “A Place in the Sun.” and “Law and Order.”  Morbidly fascinated by the global spread of the virus, taking its toll on Europeans and Africans alike, professionals and construction workers, bodies and debt piling up in astronomical numbers, unimaginable just a few short weeks ago, I became unmotivated to write or cook or even, on some days, get dressed.

Sure, we were creative, moving routine activities to Zoom.  I had my pick of AA meetings around the world.  I could exercise to my heart’s delight – Pilates classes all day long.  David worked endlessly on Shiurim for the community.  We reconvened our Women’s Rosh Chodesh program. Our runner’s group created a daily virtual koffee klotch.   And the list goes on.  But none of that satisfied my deep need to be with and hug my friends and family.  I even chastised myself.  I should be grateful that I was not totally alone as so many were.  That I was healthy.  That the plague had so far “passed over” our house while afflicting so many others.

But it was still with a heavy heart that I headed into Chag, sending false messages of cheer to my community near and far.  Seder prep for three was unsurprisingly easy and only reinforced my ugly mood.  I couldn’t wait for the Seder to be over.  And then……. And then…… something amazing happened!  I found that I was truly enjoying the singing and exchange of ideas and bonding in a way I’d never had before.  Without the pressure of worrying every second if I had enough wine on the table or if the soup would be hot enough, I was able to totally commit my focus to the uplifting story of Yitziat Mitzryim and in the process became uplifted.  My Emunah rekindled, I asked myself why I had ever doubted in the first place.  Hashem is always – has always taken care of us and this year was no different.

And then another gift – this time from Klal Yisrael.  Rabbi Lau had asked everyone to go onto their Mirpasot at 8:30 to say the Ma Nishtana together – B’Lev Echad.  My expectations were low but my family insisted.  And the sights and sounds that greeted us were astounding.  Of course, from the building across the street and the floors below us my friends were singing. But when we looked out across the City from our view in the sky, we heard singing and whistling and yelling coming from everywhere.  People were cheering, and calling greetings to one another and even laughing.  I’ve never felt so close to my fellow Israelis and even more importantly, so proud of Am Yisrael.  Despite every obstacle thrown at us over the years, we not only survive but survive with our souls and spirit intact.  We take every opportunity to celebrate and to live life to the fullest.  Full of self-pity, I had forgotten that lesson and it took my brave brothers and sisters to remind me that I’m never alone. I pray that we recover quickly from this plague and celebrate next year in health and ever stronger Emunah.

About the Author
Paulette Woolf made Aliyah to Netanya.with her husband David in 2016. She is an independent consultant in organizational change management and President of Woolf Strategies.