The doctor was annoyed. With me I suppose. After all, the baby he had come to deliver was in no hurry. A very relaxed and leisurely kid.
The day was inscribed on the calendar of the Jews as Yom Kippur and the doctor, no frequent shul-goer, wanted to try and get himself inscribed as well. Yom Kippur is the day our fates are sealed. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity!
This was my fourth baby and the others had all rushed to face life. This one, son number one, was taking his time. And the doctor’s time.
Nothing much I could do more than I was already doing.
The year was 1970 and, finally, complaining loudly, our son was born. The doctor did an extra al chet for begrudging this boy his leisure, and dashed off to the synagogue.
This was clearly an unforgettable Yom Kippur at Beit Skopp.
Three years later, that son, and the rest of our family, commemorated his day of birth with a much less celebratory event. We found ourselves in Jerusalem, in 1973. We began the day joining our people in prayer. We ended the day living in a nation in turmoil. The Yom Kippur War had erupted, seemingly a surprise even to the generals. Certainly to our little family from New Jersey.
The day had not started off well for me. I awoke with a fever and sore throat. Decided to daven at home.
Around noon time the phone rang. A phone ringing on Yom Kippur. Ominous and frightening. I decided to wait it out. Then it rang again. Answer I must! It was my sister, phoning from Herzliya. Had I noticed that the young men and the reservists were being called from the shul in Jerusalem, as they were in Herzliya?
I hadn’t noticed. Hadn’t been to shul. But, my sister is no hysteric. Nor is she prone to exaggeration. If she said something was going on, for sure it was.
The family soon arrived home. Yes, my husband had also noticed men being tapped on the shoulders.
And then, Yom Kippur in Jerusalem, as in all of Israel, was subsumed by the fierce, unyielding, invasive screams of the sirens. They haunt me still. They haunt my husband and our children. It’s a sound like the shofar. A sound that can’t be ignored or forgotten. But we rejoice at the shofar blasts. We tremble at the sound of the sirens.
We climbed down to the miclat, the bomb shelter, where we gathered with our neighbors. Most of them were experienced at being in a war. Many of them had fought for Israel. Like my brother-in-law Zeev, back in Herzliya, who had been a chayal in each of Israel’s wars, since he arrived from Romania in 1948. He soon left to join his unit, a man already in his 40’s was not deemed too old to go to battle.
And we now know the answer we sought that Rosh Hashana, who will live and who will die, unetanah tokef? A grim and tragic 2,688 young soldiers lie buried in the military sections of the country’s cemeteries. To see these graves, one by one, in our cemetery in Herzliya where we now live, is a painful reminder of the price of war.
We, in our family, were ill prepared for war. We didn’t know we had to hoard food and that the supermarket shelves would be virtually empty by the time we arrived. We didn’t expect that the sukkot would emerge as if there were no war. They did! And we didn’t know that the radio would be our best friend, and worst enemy. We yearned for encouraging news. Only sometimes, chevra. Not always. Every night we clung to the sound of Chaim Herzog’s calming voice as he reported in his Irish tinged English the day’s events on the battle fields.. He gave us hope. The subsequent history of the war taught us that things were worse than we knew. In the end our nation survived. But 2,688 giborei Yisrael were swept from our midst. They are irreplaceable.
One changes when one endures a war. So now, as we watch the world, soaked with hatred and war mongering, people killing each other every moment of every day, we ask, why? We spend billions, worldwide, to develop new atrocious abominable catastrophic weapons with which to kill people. Isn’t that insane? We could use that money to cure diseases, to feed starving children, to educate the illiterate, to learn how to understand weather so that we don’t endure earthquakes and hurricanes. Infinite ways to spend that money that we use to create bombs that can destroy millions of lives in a second. Are we crazy world? Are we really just nuts?
We can do better. We must. Or we’re going to just evaporate. Disappear like dinosaurs.
So, that’s my prayer for this coming Yom Kippur. That I will remember war and pray with fierce kavanah that my children, grandchildren, and new great grandson, and all the innocents throughout our universe, will know a world of peace. Please God give us all a piece of peace! A big piece. A big peace.
And may we all be sealed in the Book of Life.