I went back to school, to become a certified American Bar Association Paralegal at the age of 49. It was a grueling, intense, 6-month, full time program at Queens College. I was thrust back into college life, of which I had been absent for decades. In my absence, the world had gone digital, and I had a lot of catching up to do.
This article is not meant to toot my own horn, as to how I ended up graduating at the very top of my class, with a perfect GPA, nor is it to encourage or discourage anyone from returning to learn and pursue a new career later in life.
What this article is about, is supporting and standing up for your neighbors.
On the night of November 12, 2018, which will live in infamy in my brain, Terrorists in Gaza were sending barrages of rockets into and onto Southern Israel, again. I had come home from a long day of work, and I was exhausted. I climbed into my bed, knowing that there could be a red alert siren. I fell into a deep sleep. Still being a relatively newcomer to the south, when the siren started, I was disoriented, and it took me more than the allotted time (30 seconds), to run to my safe room.
The rocket made a direct hit across the street from my building.
I heard the massive boom. I felt myself being projected into the air and dropped mercilessly, smack down onto my back. I saw what appeared to be a ball of fire out of the side of my eye. I could taste the dust and smoke as it entered my nose, my mouth and my eyes.
I gingerly lifted myself up, and limped to my safe room, because I didn’t know what else to do! From the confines of that room, I called a friend in hysteria, “I think my building took a direct hit,” I screamed into the phone, since my ears were ringing.
I wandered out, very cautiously, to what appeared to be what I had only seen in films. A war zone of broken glass, twisted metal, papers flung in all directions was staring me in the face. At that moment, I was definitely in shock, but I don’t think the full effect of the trauma set in until 2 days later, when the owner of the apartment came to assess the damage, along with the official government bureau. He discovered that shrapnel had flown across the street, had pierced my bathroom window and had ripped apart the metal, embedding itself into my dryer and into the clothing that was still inside.
Since I was already suffering from trauma and shock, I hadn’t even tried to do any laundry, so I hadn’t noticed. Seeing just how deadly these rockets were, packed with nails and all kinds of deadly particles meant to fly as far as possible, to do as much damage as possible, both physical and emotional, was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” for me.
I was toast!
I couldn’t move from my bed. I couldn’t go to the emergency room for help. I couldn’t accept the outstretched hands, that only much later could I recognize.
Eventually, I put in a request to be recognized, as what is known here in Israel, as a נפגעת איבה״,” or someone who is “wounded by war or terror.” These wounds can be physical or emotional, and I had both.
I was turned down. At first, they explained that since I did not follow procedure, and go to the emergency room within 72 hours of the incident (who knew?), it disqualified me. Then they wanted to brush it under the rug and say that this wasn’t my first trauma in life, and therefore, “not their responsibility.”
I appealed. This is where my legal training, thank you God, has been coming in handy. The legal system in Israel is so different from America though, and not in a good way. It astounds me, shocks me, baffles me and at times makes me want to weep in sadness, that we as a country, are not working harder on judicial reforms. We can do better!
I couldn’t get any lawyer to assist me. No one would touch my case with a ten-foot pole. They all told me “you have zero chance of winning, it’s a waste of my time and your money.”
I am not one to be so easily deterred, and so like David against Goliath, I set out with my slingshot, and a whole lot of faith, that somehow, justice will prevail, but also knowing that I can’t get stuck on expectations.
I am happy to report, that little old me, won the first round in court against the Goliath called Bituach Leumi. The judge ruled, that she was throwing out the 72-hour rule, in my case, and that she was appointing neutral doctors, appointed by the court, to examine me, and to report back.
Unfortunately, that’s when Covid-19 hit the world, including here in Israel, and I had to cancel my scheduled appointments. I am hopeful that in the near future I shall reschedule.
You might ask, what is it that I want exactly, from my government, by designating me with the title נפגעת איבה״,” wounded by terror?
First, it would allow me to continue getting the necessary help I believe I need in learning more skills to cope better with my PTSD. The rocket was not my first experience with trauma, but it was definitely the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It is my responsibility now to follow through with the very important saying:
״אם אין אני לי מי לי״
If I am not for me then who will be?
Even more important though, is in direct answer to what once again happened while most of you were sound asleep in your beds last night. Once again, terrorists shot a rocket into the Eshkol Region in Southern Israel. True, there was no physical damage, but every single time that red alert siren goes off, the emotional trauma on the people, young and old, is immeasurable, and we need more advocates, who can write, and speak, and shout, and fight, if necessary. With this designation, I believe it will give me the “acceptance” to stand up for my people who need more vocal advocates. Who will help fight for their rights to get not just the peace they deserve, but the help they deserve.
I feel a strong sense of purpose in standing with all of the residents of Southern Israel, my home, in our fight for recognition, that when this pandemic is over, and it will be over, the terror will come back with a vengeance.
It always does!
This year on Israel’s Independence Day #72, the theme was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Southern Israel is every Jew’s neighbor.
Let’s not forget that.