Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll

Celebrating Life in a Summer of Death

This summer, I attended funerals of boys I did not know, visited their mourning parents and found comfort.

This summer, I prayed prayers against hope, saw true beauty in people, and was the target of evil.

This summer, I witnessed pain unedited, courage unmatched and generosity unbound.

This summer, I tried to smile as I herded my children into safe rooms. I tried to explain to an eight year old why someone would want her dead. I tried to keep routine normal as my people went to war.

This summer I saw the depths of evil, I saw the heights of good, and I understood that each of us are given a choice and that we must choose.

We can choose to be good, do good and see good. We can choose to be kind, be caring, be considerate.

In every minute of every day we are given a choice. This is the essence of life. It is our choice at that moment. At that moment it is who we are.

This summer I saw magic and I want to share it with you.

Twelve years ago I gave birth to a daughter. She was very sick. Through incredible people and with the will of Heaven, her life was saved and this summer, we celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.

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Credit: Yehoshua Derovan Photography

When we chose the venue, Gavna in Gush Etzion, our boys had not been kidnapped, it was not yet the scene of searches, of prayer vigils, of hope and of such pain. It was but a magical place rich in history and steeped in legend.

By the time the day arrived, our boys were buried, the 6th(?) ceasefire was holding, so many soldiers had died to protect us, and our nation had proven itself more moral and cohesive than any other in human history.

We celebrated life that night. Yes, the life of my daughter, but also the life of our nation, eternal and hopeful, together and fierce. The life that each of us was given and that we are each obligated to fill with good.

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Collected gifts for the children’s ward of Shaarei Tzedek. Credit: Yehoshua Derovan Photography

As part of the celebration, in gratitude for our daughter’s health, and to give joy to others, friends and family contributed gifts to give to the children’s ward of Shaarei Tzedek hospital.

The dedication and commitment of A to Z Events Israel, and the talents of balloon artist Debby Silman enabled us to bring the idea to life and helped us make it an integral part of the celebration.

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Centerpieces with donated gifts to sick children. Credit: Yehoshua Derovan Photography

The night was intense.

All of the emotions of this summer of fear and war, of pain and pride, came to a head in the lump in my throat as we allowed ourselves to be grateful and happy and celebrate with all of the depth that we had mourned.

We danced. We laughed. We took pride. We took comfort.

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Credit: Yehoshua Derovan Photography

We celebrated unabashedly the joy of life.

I said:

We must know that the world was created for a purpose, with intent and beauty. That each and every creature, flower, and phenomenon was made for us to enjoy and understand… we are to live it and breathe it, to be a full participant in our connection with God and the world.


The world around us is astounding and awe inspiring and yet we are often caught up in minutia and externals. …the world was made for us to go and conquer with love, to enjoy, and most of all to improve in the way that only we can– with the special gifts that only we have…


I bless us that we always recognize and celebrate the lives we have been given with those we love and that we fulfill the potential that God has given us to do good and make good.


Later that week, went to the hospital to deliver the gifts. The cart overflowed.

Our cart of gifts and a medical clown we met

I was surprised to find that the first 20 patients and parents we met were Arabs. Most did not speak Hebrew or English. My feelings were mixed in a way they would not have been a mere week before. I had just seen a video about an Arab boy receiving life saving treatment in Israel. His mother spoke very plainly about how proud she would be if her son grew up to be a martyr for Jerusalem. She made no room for Jews in her speech. ‘The land is ours,’ she said. ‘That’s just the way it is.’

With that fresh in my mind, I admit, it was very very hard for me to smile and hand out those first gifts knowing that the recipients might look at me as an infidel, invader who deserved to die. And I was furious that the world calls us Apartheid when most of the patients and so much of the staff are Arabs. It gave me a bitter feeling and I resented that the day we had worked so hard for was marred by anger.

Then I met a man who had spent over 20 years and the past 6 weeks in the hospital. He is an Arab from the Galilee whose family serves in the IDF, and because of generations of intermarriage has many genetic problems. He told me that here, in the hospital, everything is equal. Patients, nurses, doctors and staff, Arab and Jew, religious and not, everything is equal and he just wishes outside could be like inside.

He saved me that day, saved my equilibrium and brought back my smile. I am no fool. I am well aware that many wish us dead despite what we provide. But I do not think they will win. We will win. We will survive and we will succeed.

Because in the end, we all make a choice. To do good and be good. Or to side with those who refuse good.

Life is a choice. Each minute is a choice– our choice.

We must own our lives, own our minutes– own our choices.

For only we can write our stories and in the end our hearts will spell out what we have created. And no one can make — or take that — but us.

We can choose to see magic – to be magic – every minute of every day.


About the Author
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and an activist. Cofounder of She loves her people enough to call out the nonsense. See her work at
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