Every morning at dawn, I ride my bicycle to deliver coffee and tea to the soldiers stationed along the beach near where I live in Israel’s Western Galilee. I’ve taken it it upon myself to do this ever since troops were deployed here, a few days after the Hamas massacre on October 7. That was in southern Israel. Here in the north, we’re preparing for an attack by Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army on the other side of the Lebanese border, about eight miles away.
I ride along the beach, looking out at the sea. Navy boats patrol on the turquoise-blue water. There are streaks of orange in the sky, loopy trails left by Israeli fighter jets. The sunrise seems more beautiful than ever.
When I reach the first group of soldiers, they say that they were dreaming about a cup of coffee right before I appeared. They’re always happy to see me. This time, I was even happier to see them because I wanted to share the news.
Our son just had a baby boy a few hours ago. My first grandchild!
Mazel tov, Grandma!
I didn’t know any of the soldiers before—but they now feel like family. Pulled away from their ordinary lives, they’re in olive-green fatigues, arriving from around the country. There’s an engineer, a pediatrician, and a graphic design student who sent me photographs of his artwork.
As our oldest daughter said—my husband and I have a blended family of six children—in other countries, there are six degrees of separation. In Israel, there is zero degree of separation.
We all know someone who’s been devastated by the October 7 attack. A young friend, a tattoo artist, lost four of her friends at the Nova Music Festival, people in their early twenties. Another of our sons has a friend, Alon Gat, from Kibbutz Be’eri. When the attackers invaded, he and his wife, Yarden, fled. Yarden passed him their little girl and ran in one direction. Alon, barefoot and carrying their daughter, ran in another. Yarden was captured. She and Alon’s sister, Carmel, are now among the 200-plus captives being held in Gaza. Alon’s mother, Kineret, was murdered during the kibbutz attack.
Nobody can sleep well anymore—or sleep at all. Our eldest son, in Tel Aviv, is mostly deaf and has to sleep with his hearing aid so he can hear the sirens go off whenever missiles are fired at the city. He doesn’t have a bomb shelter and when there’s an attack, he goes into the stairwell and waits with an elderly neighbor until it’s quiet again.
If Israel is a start-up nation, then this feels like a do-it-yourself war. In our beach village, people have volunteered, joining WhatsApp groups to offer help with babysitting, the elderly, the soldiers’ laundry, medical services. There’s a 17-year-old girl who rides around on her bicycle, delivering supplies to and from the War Room, in what was once an abandoned bomb shelter.
My husband, 71, still drives a tractor in the avocado groves of our village. He and the crew of local Arabs and Jews have known one another for years. They’re working together until rocket fire begins. When a train runs past, it sometimes tricks me into thinking that our routines haven’t changed. But everything has been upended. There are more than 60,000 internal refugees from both southern and northern Israel who’ve been displaced.
Our younger son and his girlfriend were evacuated from Metullah, the northernmost point in Israel. It’s a charming town, known as the Tuscany of Israel, now a closed military zone. They stuffed clothes into their backpacks, took their dog, and drove south, not knowing if their house will still be standing when they return. Not knowing if they’ll ever feel safe enough to live so close to the Lebanese border where from their street they could see Hezbollah flags. And where Hezbollah has stockpiled about 150,000 rockets and missiles since the Israel-Hezbollah War in 2006, under the watch of UNIFIL, the United Nations International Forces in Lebanon, who call themselves, without any sense of irony, peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, on my bike ride to deliver coffee, I talked to a soldier who said he proposed marriage to his girlfriend when he went home for a 24-hour leave a few days earlier.
“Did she accept?”
“Of course she accepted,” joked another soldier. “He had the gun.”
Sometimes we try to joke and make each other laugh. Sometimes we’re too sunk in despair.
Our son, Shlomie, the new father, was a medic in a paratroopers unit during the Israel-Hezbollah War in 2006. He was with Michael Levin, a soldier from America who volunteered in the Israeli Army. During a battle in a Hezbollah-controlled village in Southern Lebanon, Michael was killed and Shlomie was wounded. Ever since that last war, Shlomie has struggled with PTSD, and now, in the middle of this war, his fiancee, Maya, has given birth to a baby boy.
It’s what I’d call a tikkun, a repair, a healing.
The couple didn’t have a chance to get married because the war broke out. Now, the rabbi said he can do a combinah, a combination of a brit followed by a wedding on the same day.
Islamic terrorists aim to destroy the Jewish people and break our spirits. But we’re still here. Still alive. And that is enough of a reason to celebrate.