The Saddest Lesson on the Last Day of School

To celebrate our daughters’ triumphant report cards on the last day of school, Erev Hofesh HaGadol, our family was on the way to a restaurant when we heard the heartbreaking news that Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were dead.

Since dining out was no longer appropriate, we decided to mark our daughters’ scholarly achievements another time.

We drove home in silence.

Watching our girls follow the news at home, I could see how deeply affected they were. Unlike most times when my husband and I watch the news, Zoe (almost 14) and Maayan (almost 12) didn’t ask to switch to more entertaining fare. In one evening, they had outgrown Arutz HaYeladim.

As parents, we want our children to grow up. It is our job to get them to adulthood. Sometimes, we want to speed the process. Other times, we want to stop time so that we can live in those perfect moments forever … an afternoon at the beach, the day spent planting a garden, that walk taken hand-in-hand.

This is the summer when we will celebrate Maayan’s bat mitzvah. Yet I could see that she had already come of age.

With each TV interview of a community leader or family friend, Maayan repeated, “This is so sad.” Her face looked more and more tired after each segment.

Zoe’s response came in the form of anger, questions and political statements.

Zoe and Maayan were only 5 and 3 when Gilad Shalit was captured. They, like the rest of Israel, were glad when he was returned to his parents. But I do not think our girls related to Gilad Shalit. This time was different. Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal were close enough in age to our girls that they did relate. Those three boys could have been their madrichim in Tzofim or the older brothers of a school friend.

When they were young, our girls never imagined monsters under the bed. I was grateful that I never had to lie and say, “There are no such things as monsters,” because now my daughters know the truth: There are monsters, and there is real evil in this world.

We ate a simple dinner of hot dogs, no side dish, no salad. Zoe asked that we turn off the TV because she just couldn’t stand to hear the news anymore. Later, lying in bed, my husband said he wished he could build a wall that would protect our whole family.

We both knew how totally out of our hands it all is, and I asked Stephen if he wanted to attend the funerals.

I feel asleep with Maayan’s words on my mind: “What a horrible day for school to end.”

About the Author
Alison Epstein holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has worked as an editor and designer for daily newspapers and weekly magazines, including USA TODAY, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Buffalo News and Cincinnati CityBeat. She currently runs Ponka Wonka Ltd., a graphic + web design firm. Alison made aliyah with her husband and two daughters in 2005. They live in Rehovot and keep bees as a hobby.
Related Topics
Related Posts