Barbara Cooper

Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah 5784

We knew early on what was happening, but not all the details until Yom Tov was over Saturday night. Here’s the story of my day. Real, but also surreal…

Ready to leave for shul, about 8:45 AM, stopped in my tracks. A siren. What does this mean? Knocked on landlord’s door. No answer. A car alarm? Not in this neighborhood. Siren. Booms. The message was clear. Rockets. Landlord and family probably in their mamad (safe room.)

Back in my apartment. Siren, again. What to do? Voices on a nearby mirpeset.  Maybe they can answer my question, but a closer neighbor opens his window and tells me that he has heard from his daughter that there is a “big war in the south, and they are taking over houses.”

Would it be safe for me to go to shul since the siren stopped? He offered to walk me, but I decided to head over on my own. Saw a few people walking including a friend who insisted on accompanying me the rest of the way. On the street of the shul, my daughter was coming towards us, about to check on me at my home. We went into shul together.

The building has a mamad, but not big enough to accommodate the entire congregation. Rabbi said if there was a siren, we should hit the floor and cover our heads.

Sirens! On the floor twice. Rabbi announced that we would not add aliyahs for the Torah reading as we normally do for Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, and once the reading was done, we should go home.

My son-in-laws’s parents live closer than my daughter, so she and I went there. We saw a car pulling into a driveway and a soldier getting in—“called up” as many from our neighborhood were. A quick kiddush. More sirens. Into the mamad twice, one time before my son-in-law and two grandsons arrived and once with them joining us.

Option to stay put or join the rest of the gang with my daughter, rest-of-the-gang being granddaughter and wives of two grandsons. Wanted to see them and the grandson who expected to be called up.

All quiet on the Ramat Beit Shemesh front. Uninterrupted lunch. Then, everyone ready to nap. Walked home knowing that I could knock on any door along the way if danger arose.

Home safely, landlady offering help if needed. Quiet afternoon. Emotional exhaustion conducive to rest.

Grandson had to report in the evening. WhatsApp messages of many others called up. Most families affected. Names listed for prayers and tehillim. Messages of support from our rabbi and other professionals. Made it through the day. What will tomorrow bring?

Sunday. Silence. Welcome relief from the sirens and booms, but eerie. The only indication of what is happening is what we get from news reports—the many deaths and injuries, hostages taken and retrieved, the total disruption especially of the south but throughout our Holy Land, the current successes (may they continue.)  Praying, praying for our soldiers to be safe and for them to accomplish what they need to do quickly. Praying for the quiet to be sustained and normal living to resume.

Recent months of unprecedented dis-harmony, deep divisions with public displays.  Statements of intended resistance to military service. Attention diverted? Missed signs of impending danger? The horrific attack! Sudden unity! Dissenters serving and urging all to mobilize. Do we need catastrophe to bind us together?

About the Author
Once a stay-at-home mother of four children, and now grandmother to 15, Barbara spent 50 years 'children watching.' For a decade, she provided childcare in her home and was also a substitute teaching assistant at Gan Ephraim Preschool in Columbus OH. Over a period of 23 years, she made 19 trips to Israel, finally fulfilling her dream of making aliyah in 2019. She pursues ongoing independent study of Torah.
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