Sally Berkovic

Text me when you get there

There’s a woman just outside Jerusalem whom I don’t know. Last Shabbat morning, she gave my daughter, whom she did not know, a lift to her army base in the south. My daughter had Friday off and spent it with her sister in Jerusalem – and on Friday afternoon we had our first family WhatsApp call since the war started.

I have to be back at base tomorrow morning, she said. Don’t worry, I’ll find a lift. (The limited public transport on Shabbat won’t take her there).

I would have taken her, but I’m in London.

What do you mean, you’ll find a lift? Who is going to drive you there?

Don’t worry. It was a command rather than a request. There’s a hotline. I’ve had a few offers and this woman sounds sweet. 

Sweet? But… And then I have to hold my tongue. For I am in London, and she’s got quite a few stripes on her IDF uniform.

Mother…interjects her sister [it’s ‘mother’ when they are getting irritated] just don’t worry, it’ll be fine.

How does SHE have the CHUTZPAH to tell ME that it will be fine?

Well at least go and buy some nice Shabbat treats from the supermarket. It was a command rather than a request.

I would have fed her, but I’m in London.

I’ve got a massive pimple, says my soldier. It’s all that rubbish food we’re eating. [Said pimple reported upon with permission from my daughter].

And we laugh. Silly talk.

And, she continued, I told them this war has to finish soon – it’s ruining my running routine. The London marathon is in April, and I’ve got to train.

And we laugh again. Silly talk.

Silly talk to subsume the pain. Silly talk to calm the parents who are in London.

The parents in London who are so grateful to those in Israel who also parent my daughters.

When two of our daughters decided to stay in Israel after their gap-year, we did not hesitate to support their decision. They both enrolled in the IDF and we became the long-distance parents of lone soldiers, but they were never really alone. Via Garin Tzabar, they lived on kibbutzim in the north, and their adoptive families showed nothing but kindness, appreciation and generosity. They would thank ME for sending them my daughters – and now, during the war, they continue to offer their support.  Thank YOU, say my fingers as they tremble on the keyboard.

I’m writing to friends to say hello and just to let them know I am thinking of them, thanking them for all the different ways that they protect our country. They all reply to my inadequate message the same way: What can I do for your girls? Make sure they have our phone number.  How can I help them?  

They say they worry about me – how do you sleep with your kids here? I tell them I sleep fine – don’t waste your worry wadi on me. And I wonder to myself, how can they possibly have any more capacity to worry about my children, when their own sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren are hurting?  There are already too many spaces in the cracks of their hearts.

Daddy and I will keep our phones on. We never keep our phones on during Shabbat. Text us when you get there.

Shabbat morning a text arrived.

I’m fine. She was so sweet. And she said I should call her if I need anything.

Thank YOU to the woman just outside Jerusalem whom I don’t know.

And to YOU as well.

About the Author
Sally Berkovic's latest publication, Death Duties, focusses on her involvement with the Chevra Kadisha and is available via her website. and Her book, Under My Hat is available on and in the UK, via the author. Reflecting on Orthodoxy and feminism, the 2019 edition includes a new, 75-page introductory essay reviewing the extraordinary changes in Orthodox women’s lives since Under My Hat was first published in 1997. She is the CEO of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe.
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