Israel’s borders, Bible geography
I want to thank and commend Rabbi James Gibson for reminding readers that the boundaries of the State of Israel were and will be the product of international agreements and not based on biblical texts and their readings. As he noted (“Israel’s borders – from Torah or diplomacy?” July 24), neither the Balfour Declaration (1917) nor the U.N. vote to Partition (1947) relied on Hebrew Bible geography. And the future boundaries of the Jewish State of Israel will also be arrived at through direct negotiations, facilitated by the international community, between the parties, as were the Egypt-Israel agreements of 1977-79.
A mother’s fear: No normalcy anymore
As I write this I am playing footsie with my 2-year-old son while he counts his agorot, trying to figure out if he has enough shekels for chocolate. I see that it’s approaching 4 p.m., around the time that Hamas has been launching missiles toward Tel Aviv.
We live just outside the city, on the edge of Bnei Brak. I don’t live in a super-religious area but in a neighborhood called Pardes Chen, a very mixed neighborhood. I grew up in Pittsburgh as a Conservative Jew, but as time passed, being Jewish went from being just a word to something that completely embodies me. I have spent countless nights studying with my husband and taking the 613 laws seriously. I do the best I can.
I have dreadlocks so long I sit on them, tattoos of my children’s names on my arm and a tattoo of a Jewish star on my back. I don’t ever seem to do things the way the rest of the world does. I skipped college, moved to Israel, met the man I would marry, discovered I am an artist, had a couple kids, got married (in Pittsburgh surrounded by my family and Rabbi Chuck) and then had twins.
A little more than 10 years ago, I moved to Israel with the full belief that I was a Zionist. I didn’t really know what that meant. I thought it just meant that Jews should live in Israel. I didn’t know the word “political” was invisibly placed in front of the word “Zionist.” In the past decade, I have learned that politics and religion should have nothing to do with each other. Right now, around the world, people are confusing the political actions of the State of Israel with the personal and religious beliefs of Jews. It has been hard for me to proudly and publicly say that I am Jewish, knowing that I will be confused with a political Zionist. That hurts. I am very proud to have Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah as my forefathers and foremothers. I was taught Torah, and I teach it to my children. How can I help to instill the values of Torah in my children if they have no larger example other than my husband and me?
This is the first time in my life I have heard air-raid sirens, and not just once, but every day. We don’t have it as bad as Ashkelon or Sderot, but I believe this is the first time anyone living in or near Tel Aviv has heard the sirens. As a mother it’s especially difficult. Over here we have air-raid sirens, the Iron Dome and a military to keep missiles from hitting civilians or causing much damage. In Gaza, mothers and their children have nothing to keep them safe.
Yes, it’s scary hearing the air-raid sirens (especially for the first time), having to run quickly with children into the closest stairway or a recently unlocked bomb shelter. I have started to consider what meals I will be making. In case an air-raid siren goes off I don’t want to have to stop in the middle of cooking, so I have been choosing things that are fast and easy to make. I have re-arranged my bedroom as a makeshift bomb shelter, as the building I live in has no stairwell or shelter. I have a mattress propped up against the single window, and the bed is located against a wall, underneath a supporting beam. My 6-month-old twins, Nissim Marley and Chaim Zachariah, are sharing a crib this week; it’s on wheels, so I can easily get them into the hallway, where there is no window. As for my 5-year-old daughter, Noa Aya, and her 2-year-old brother, Caleb Yosef, they are sharing the room next to mine, with bags full of clothing stacked to provide protection in case any shrapnel breaks the glass window.
I don’t really believe that anything serious is going to happen, but I have to be prepared as best as I can. The worst part is having to explain this to Noa. She already knows that if she hears the sirens she is to grab Caleb and come inside. Even though she isn’t talking about it, I know this is really bothering her. It’s not fair to any child, no matter where they live or what religion they are or what skin color they have or what language they speak. There is absolutely no reason that children have to go through traumatic experiences such as this.
I refuse to become like most other people here, numb to the violence. I’m far from being OK. Yesterday, there were rockets that flew right over us, so low that we could see them, maybe even throw a rock at them, and there were no sirens. That gives me a maximum of three seconds to get inside. I have never heard a rocket’s sound before. I was frozen in a place for a moment. Once the reality of the situation sunk in, I was acting off basic survival instinct, nothing else. I don’t want to be here; I don’t want my kids to experience this, but at $1,300 per plane ticket, leaving just isn’t an option.
I can’t seem to do what everyone else around me is doing, which is living life “normally.” There is nothing “normal” about this. This morning, after running around to get food for Shabbat, the moment I walked in the door with Caleb and Noa, I had to go to the bathroom to cry; I couldn’t let my kids see me break down.
I’m not sure what I am hoping to accomplish with this letter. I guess I just wanted to give a perspective other than what you might get from the news.
Bnei Brak, Israel