Last year, Janglo presented something called the 40 Days 4 Israel Challenge: to go 40 days – leading up to Tisha b’Av – without speaking badly about Israel. They chose this time because it is the period that the meraglim scoped out Israel before coming back and speaking badly about the land; and as they say, the rest is history. Participating in 40Days4Israel is a way to negate the action of the spies.

When I heard about this last year I thought it was a great idea, and joined the challenge. While it’s easy to find amazing, unique, and special things about Israel, it’s a lot harder to refrain from talking about the negatives – and to be clear, this means I didn’t say anything negative about living here AT ALL, even to my mother.

This turned out to be a remarkably rewarding challenge, and literally changed the way I went through my daily life. When it was done, I thought I might even continue it ad infinitum (hahahahaha, right?)  I’m really excited to be starting again; and this year we’ve created a Facebook group in the hopes that more people will take this challenge upon themselves.

And so, without further ado… here I go!


Gold medals & Great Britain

On Yom Hashoa, the most oft-posted link I saw was this blog post. It aims to move our story away from the victimization of Jews in the Holocaust and toward their strength, and implies that we’d do well to make this switch in the context of Jewish history overall. I couldn’t help but feel surprised at this post, and its popularity among my friends – I don’t remember ever getting the feeling of being a helpless nation from my family/teachers/leaders. I was a bit bothered by this, thinking, We have our own state! We are free, and secure, and we are awesome! Even Mark Twain thinks so! … because this is the rhetoric to which I am accustomed.

Last week, a co-worker began the trite discussion of Yom Hazikaron vs. Memorial Day. Before I had time to flee, she made a point I had not yet considered: it’s not just the proximity, conscription, and percentages that make Yom Hazikaron what it is; it’s also the fact that we like to see ourselves as victims. After spending all of Yom Hashoa determined to think otherwise, this idea somehow struck a chord.

On Saturday, Alex Shatilov won the gold medal for his floor routine at the European Gymnastics Championships (skip to 00:17:00):

Can we all agree that regardless of how amazing that last tumble pass is, this just does not compare to women’s gymnastics?

This is of course very exciting, and upon reading news this I immediately opened youtube and watched a bunch of routines continued preparing a report for work. And then I skipped to the awards ceremony (minute 44), where I intended to proudly watch the flag being raised and hear Hatikva being played.

Now it turns out that Alex Shatilov actually tied for gold – which JPost failed to mention – with Max Whitlock from Great Britain. So before Hatikva, “God Save the Queen” began to play. As I listened, I was struck by how regal, how proud it sounded. And then Hatikva began to play, and it dawned on me – our anthem sounds like the soundtrack to a Holocaust movie. Listen to it. It just… does.

Have we really set ourselves up to be victims? Do we need it? And why? With all due respect, do we need a new national anthem?

Flag me, baby!

ImageRemember this guy? You probably recognize it from the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, i.e. Yom Ha’atzmaut. Well, I saw one today on my way home from work. And while it’s entirely possible that someone had just not bothered to remove it from their car since May, I was inspired.

I happen to have a rental car, so I went home, dug through my closet, and pulled out a car flag (for some reason, I have like eight of these even though I’ve never owned a car). I figure, at best this guy and I will start a trend; I’m worst, I’m driving around displaying my national pride.

A shattering of security

My sense of security has been shattered. All it took was one siren. I feel like a fraud, saying this and knowing (or really, not knowing) what people in the south have been living through. And no, I don’t feel like I am constantly under threat – we had one siren! And odds are so minute that anything would land anywhere near me! Please! And yet. My sense of security has been shattered.

Friday night I left shul to join my friends and make sure I had people to walk to dinner with; the idea of diving into buildings alone wasn’t all that appealing. When I came home, I left keys, shoes, and a sweatshirt by the front door so I could bolt out in case of a siren. I put on PJs that I’d feel comfortable running out in. I cursed myself for not leaving on the silent radio station that just plays sirens (“I’m in Jerusalem! What would I need this for?”). And then I felt overwhelmed by the fact that people have been living like this every day for weeks, months, and years.

Walking to shul in the morning, I kept my eyes peeled for the closest place to run to in case of a siren. I tried not to sit next to windows. I heard “phantom sirens” all day long. (Is that a siren? It’s the wind. Is that a siren? It’s a motorcycle. Is that a siren? It’s a… whatever, you name it. Anything can sound like a siren if you’re afraid of a rocket falling on your head.) 

I think I am not alone in saying that I almost feel glad that we had this one siren. That we were suddenly jarred into aligning ourselves with the residents of the south, with the feelings that they go through day in and day out. Thank God we did not have more rockets, and thank God it did not hit a residential area.

I am love sick.

With a pretty long laundry list to discuss with God, I made sure to get to shul on time on Friday night. The shul I usually attend, Yakar, opens with some soulful singing before Kabbalat Shabbat. We were singing a song from Shir Hashirim:

השבעתי אתכם, בנות ירושלים: אם-תמצאו, את-דודי–מה-תגידו לו, שחולת אהבה אני.

‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, what will ye tell him? that I am love-sick.’

As we sat in shul, yearning for God, for God’s love for His people, for His love for Jerusalem, my friend turned to me with eyes wide open: “There’s an azaka.” But I’m singing to God. But I’m begging for His love and attention and protection. But we’re in Jerusalem.

We couldn’t hear anything over the singing, and we just stared at her. Here? Here?! How can this be? Is nowhere safe? The singing continued until she shouted, “יש אזעקה!” and then we heard it – the rise-and-fall wailing siren, only 40 minutes after the beautiful siren that announces Shabbat in Jerusalem.

Turns out you can hear the “boomim” from quite a distance.

Jerusalem, my beautiful city, is not prepared for this. Our buildings don’t have safe rooms. Our residents don’t know where the nearest miklat is.* Even during the Gulf War, scuds were never launched toward Jerusalem. But on Friday, Hamas sent a missile headed for the Knesset; it landed near a Palestinian village instead. (I seriously, for the life of me, cannot understand what they were thinking with this move.)

We spent the rest of Shabbat sifting through rumors of where the rockets had landed, preparing as best we could in case of another siren, and desperately passing the time until we could turn on our radios again.


*Take note, Jerusalemites – the miklatim were unlocked on Friday. Find your nearest one here: http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/jer_sys/publish/files/17839/128212123117.pdf

Friday’s email to friends & family in the US

To my dearest friends and family,

I just want to let you know that I am okay, and communicate what I’m feeling. I went camping last night with some friends in the hills of Jerusalem. It was beautiful, and serene, and surreal to be away from the news for a few hours. We headed out just as rumors about rockets in Tel Aviv were flying, and everything just seemed… up in the air. We decided to go anyway, enjoying the peace and quiet, though it was punctuated by military aircraft overhead as the night went on.

Some of you have asked what you can do from there. I am not sure what to tell you at the moment about practical ways to help, but will keep you updated if you’d like. But here’s what we could really use: your attention, your support, and your words. I’ve had one friend email me just to let me know that her thoughts were here… one. Yes, I am thank God safe in Yerushalayim, and yes, I left work early yesterday so was not in Tel Aviv when the siren went off. [As I am writing this, a rocket just hit Tel Aviv. No one was injured]. But my country is under attack. YOUR country is under attack. Are you thoughts here? Are your minds here? I am counting down the minutes to Shabbat because I am dreading the moment I have to turn off the radio.

So here’s what you can do: tune in to Israeli radio, just for an hour. Do it now, before Shabbat. Align your thoughts for one hour with everyone here – we are glued to the news. You can listen to galgalatz by clicking on the top left icon on this page: http://www.glgltz.co.il/

As a warning, here’s what you should expect to hear:

*Random songs (as always) all requested by residents of the south
*Interruptions during songs announcing a “צבע אדום” (siren) in different areas as they occur [these have thank God been less frequent in the last few hours].
*Information on road closures due to rocket attacks
*Reminders of what to do in case of a siren
*Some good old PSAs about safe driving
*And of course, news on the hour

One last note – if you are only reading the news in English, you may have missed that operation “Pillar of Defense” is actually עמוד ענן in Hebrew; that is, the cloud that God provided us as protection in the desert. Let’s pray for God’s continued protection, and for the safety of our soldiers, the citizens of the south, and all of עם ישראל.

I hope I did not offend anyone with this email. Wishing everyone a peaceful Shabbat.

Shabbat shalom,

A hopefully short-lived blog

On Friday, I sent an email to friends and family in America, begging for reassurance that their eyes, ears, and mouths were all focused on Israel. I felt boundless support from the responses I received, and a request from some to keep them updated. I figured I wouldn’t have much more to say, but it turns out I do, for better or for worse. I’ll be blogging through Operation Pillar of Defense for anyone who wants to hear things from the perspective of an olah on the sidelines.