Drawing Strength from Children
I wrote this a few weeks ago, the morning after the first Code Red siren sounded in Gush Etzion.
For the second night in the past week, I didn’t sleep. For the second night in the past week, I was awakened by the thoughts running through my head and my small son curled up next to me, stirring in his sleep. Although we have a strict “everyone sleeps in their own beds” policy, my husband and I have made an exception twice in the past week. The first time was the night we learned that Naftali, Gil-ad, and Eyal, three boys who became the metaphorical sons of all of Am Yisrael, were not returning to their homes, their parents. That night, when my 2-year-old appeared beside my bed around 2AM, instead of sleepily escorting him back to his bed as I would on any other night, I pulled him beside me and buried my face in his sweet curls, drawing comfort from his warm little body pressed against mine.
Last night was different. At about 8:30PM, a red alert siren sounded in our small community in Gush Etzion, causing my son to jump from his bed screaming in terror. As my husband was at Maariv, I stood momentarily frozen, balancing my petrified toddler on one hip and cradling my infant in my other arm. Knowing the adrenaline would get me to the bomb shelter with both of them in time, I headed for the door, only to meet my husband there. He grabbed a child and the four of us headed across the yard toward the shelter. Once we settled inside with several other families from our apartment complex, I thought of all my friends here with three or more children–what did they do if they simply did not have enough hands? Did they have to wake their sleeping children or did their kids also wake up screaming from the noise? I looked around the room, noticing parents of one child holding a child from another family, so that every child had the protective arms of a parent around them. Every child felt safe and comforted. Some children fell asleep; others, like my son, just stared quietly with terrified eyes, wondering what disrupted what should have been a typical night. So, a few hours later, when my son appeared at my bedside again with those same eyes, I slid over and let him into my bed. This time, though, I didn’t feel comforted by his presence. Instead, I allowed the inevitable question into my thoughts: “What am I doing, raising my children in this country?”
Once these thoughts entered my mind, I thought back to last Sunday night, the last time my son slept in my bed. I thought about the Frankels, the Yifrachs, and the Shaars. My son was safe beside me, my daughter safely sleeping in her crib. These families lost their sons, and still showed incredible emunah, belief in G-d and allegiance to the State of Israel. Who was I to have these doubts, to consider an alternative place to live? The strength and tenacity displayed by six once-average parents in their quest to find their sons, their quiet and calm acceptance of the devastating truth, and their humanity and resilience shown by calling the family of Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir to offer their condolences is at the very least inspirational, at most the strongest confirmation for why my husband and I have chosen to raise our own children here. It is the very essence of the words, “Mi K’amcha Yisrael,” (“Who is like Your Nation of Israel?”). To the Jewish people in this country, there is nothing more precious than this land, nothing more motivational than maintaining it, and nothing more treasured than owning your own red-brick roof home in the beautiful, vast landscape of our country. I do not know from where the Frankel, Yifrach and Shaar families draw their courage, but I draw mine from them.
The days and weeks to come are sure to be volatile. And even as I write these words from the comfortable seat of my living room couch, I realize that I know nothing of the lives of those living in Sderot, for while we spent 10 minutes in our bomb shelter last night, they slept in theirs. However, this morning, I watched my son play and sing one of his favorite songs from gan, “The world is like a narrow bridge, but the most important thing is not to be afraid.” No message could have been more clear–the words of the song, the timing of him singing it, and that they were coming from my son’s mouth. And once again, through his presence, I am comforted.
Written by Lani (Lederer) Berman, Class of ’05