When tragedy strikes, we all want to do what we can to help those in need. As Jews have done for centuries, we are ready to put our differences aside, and help each other in a moment’s notice. What happens when we just can’t do anything? What do we do when we are stuck on the sidelines trying to imagine the horrific nightmares that our family, friends, and fellow brothers are experiencing?
For the past few days, I have been asking myself that very question. After months of COVID restrictions, I was finally able to travel for the first time in over a year. The business trip was going extremely well, and it was truly great to be “out there” after what seemed like a life time of being stuck. Then, two days ago, in what seemed like an instant, everything changed. My flight home was cancelled, and I had to just sit idly, watching the images on social media and hearing the fear in my family’s voices, as they ran to our safe room. That’s when I started asking myself, what do I do now? Someone told me I was lucky because I was out of harm’s way. I actually feel guilty for the same reason. I should be there with my wife and kids running to the safe room in the middle of the night, trying to get the lovable but not overly intelligent dog to cooperate. I should be there to assure everyone that it’s going to be okay, even though I really can’t really promise that. But, after a year of COVID, we all know the famous saying, “man plans and God laughs.”
My wife was actually the first one to see that the airlines were cancelling flights. When she first called me, I was in what was supposed to be my final work related meeting of the trip. I eventually called her back and she told me to check my flight status. Within minutes, the green turned to red. After hours on the phone with United, and two more cancelled flights, I finally have a plan to fly home on an Elal flight. I am praying that the flight makes it out. But, here I am again, 6,000 miles away, helpless and sad that I am not with my family and my fellow Israelis to face this terrible situation head on.
One thing I probably do have in common with most Israelis right now is that the last two nights have been virtually sleepless. Between the flight headaches and the concern over family members and friends, sleep has not been at the top of the list. In thinking about my situation, I realized that these extra days in the US had to be put to good use. As a teacher, I was trained that everything in life can serve as a teachable moment. This latest situation is no different. So, I started to think about what I could do to help my extended Israeli family. One look at social media and the news. shows that most of the world is either against us or greatly misinformed. As a teacher, I realized that I have an opportunity to change this. Today during my history class, I devoted most of the period to a Q&A session where the students could ask anything they wanted. The range of questions was actually quite impressive, and I was proud of my students, as it was clear that they had been thinking about this topic for a long time. During our class conversation, we discussed Hamas, Jewish/Arab relations. Jerusalem. and other related topics. While I really wanted to be home, I was also glad that I was able to give my students a forum to ask questions and to express their own opinions. At the end of the period, one of my students came up to me to wish me a safe flight and she added that this was the first time she ever got to have an open discussion with honest answers. I was both pleased and shocked, but I told the student that she could always talk and express her ideas.
While I still wish that I was home, I did have some small satisfaction in the fact that I was able to provide some clarity for my students. For now, this will have to be my contribution to my family and friends in Israel.
As I write this blog, my wife just sent me a WhatsApp to let me know that she and the kids are once again in the safe room at 1:45 AM Israel time. And again, I started feeling that I should be there, but for now I am stuck. Hopefully, I will get on that plane tomorrow and land in time for Shabbat in Israel. Until then, I will continue to do what I can on this side.