The phone calls have started.
Worried relatives and friends in the States are checking in to see if we are all right, and especially if our daughter, at an army base less than 10 miles from Gaza, is all right. Yes and yes – thank God.
We do not live anywhere near the Mediterranean coastal cities that are getting battered with rockets day and night. There and here, on the eastern side of the country, Israelis share a sense of relief, because a military operation in Gaza is so overdue. Most of us agree that the good people of Sderot have borne the brunt of our government’s inaction long enough.
At the same time, I worry for my daughter’s boyfriend’s family in Ashdod, a beautiful port city that until this weekend was unaffected by the rockets raining down on Sderot and environs.
I worry for my friend Sara, whose family was forcibly evicted from their house in Gaza’s Gush Katif three years ago and sent to the equivalent of a trailer park in rocket range of their former home. Incredibly, there are no bomb shelters in the whole place. The government says it is “aware of the problem.”
I worry for the son of good friends, waiting with his unit to be deployed to Gaza. Here is what his father wrote me in an e-mail today: “This is where being proud as parents of our son in uniform and the weightiness of his mission meet and come into conflict. What do you say when he says they’re moving – they’re going in? ‘We love you!, HaShem yishmor [God will guard you]!,Watch your back!, Keep moving!, Our prayers are with you!, Are you sure you have enough underwear?’ As a parent it’s not the place you want to be. It’s downright scary.”
But this is what it’s like in Israel, where everyone either has a kid in the army or knows someone who does: Life goes on.
On Saturday night, when we heard about the operation, we were in the midst of cleaning up after a Shabbat full of guests. We checked the news on the Internet. Elana called her base to see if she had to report back earlier than her usual Sunday afternoon.
And then we ordered pizza for five visiting girls. Elana and a friend downloaded a movie and made popcorn. My husband Steve and I went upstairs to our neighbor Marty’s housewarming party. He has a son in the army, too, but so far Eitan has not been sent to Gaza.
The next day, Steve spoke with others in the local Magen David Adom crew, where he volunteers on an ambulance once a week. There was some talk of beefing up the volunteer force in case they have to fill in for members who may be called up to the reserves. Then he went to MDA headquarters in Jerusalem to donate plasma.
Meantime, I got a call from Marty, telling me that the representative of the elevator company was at our building and needed two homeowners to come for a briefing and sign off on the elevator – which is finally in service after five months. Marty, who heads our building committee, asked me to be No. 2.
So while Israel Air Force pilots were hitting targets in Gaza, Marty and I were climbing a metal ladder up to our rooftop. The rep showed us how to shut off the power and manually crank the cab to the nearest floor, in case anyone gets stuck. He showed us how to set the timer so that the elevator will operate automatically on Shabbat. He gave us a sheaf of papers to sign and date.
On Sunday afternoon, I had a long chat with my daughter-in-law, Miriam. We discussed her music therapy internship, her childbirth classes, and latke recipes. Even though I was keeping an eye on the Jerusalem Post Website as we spoke, the topic of Gaza did not come up. When my in-laws called later from Florida, I assured them Elana was out of harm’s way, which I actually believed at the time. Only on Monday did I realize she is so close to the action.
As I write this, it is now Monday night. I just got off the phone with my upstairs neighbor, Lisa. She and I are planning an engagement bash on Saturday night for a young man we both hosted in our homes many times last year, when he was a student at the yeshiva up the block. He and his girlfriend came to visit during intersession from New York University, and they got engaged last week. After graduation, they want to make aliyah and find an apartment in our neighborhood.
So tomorrow morning, while our soldiers head into another day on the battlefields of Gaza, Lisa and I will head to the supermarket to buy provisions for a party.
Life goes on.
For more about Gaza, go to Israel seeks to change the rules of the game.