AM YISRAEL CHAI!

By DENA ARNOVITZ: SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

I just feel the need to write one more time to reflect about what is going on and how we are feeling in these tough times. It is so important for people around the globe who aren’t here to feel and see for themselves, so I feel the need to express the deep sadness that has enveloped us for the past couple of weeks.

Eventually it all becomes life; the sirens, the running to a shelter . . . it never gets old. Just yesterday, I was on my way to the Tel Aviv area and after not hearing a siren in Jerusalem (basically since I got out of the army), I hoped that it was like that outside of Jerusalem too. But I was so wrong.  Driving on the highway with two friends we began to see cars pull over. Since we were driving extremely fast and there was no alert on the radio (we hear them all the time now) so we immediately rolled down our windows. Sure enough the siren was going off, so we quickly and carefully pulled over to the side and ran out of the car and laid on the hot, dirty asphalt of the freeway with our hands over our heads praying we would be OK as we watched a woman pull her sleeping baby out of the car seat and run to the side of the street.

Unfortunately this is something that Israelis see quite often. We waited for the loud boom of the Iron Dome and in a couple more minutes we were on our way. The shakiness slowly drifted out of my fingers and I calmed back down as we drove on and went out to dinner as planned. People were out and about as usual because Israelis will not let them ruin our lives.

On the other hand, they have managed to make many new families mourners and they have taken a huge part of their families that they will never get back. So many boys, young boys who will never get to do things… so many of them recently married or engaged or leaving a wife pregnant with their child.

The feeling is tragic, there is no strength left for anything. People do not want to leave the country because it feels wrong. I lost someone I knew last week. Seeing his name on the news and looking at his beautiful, young face just ripped my heart to shreds.  It was the most painful thing.  I felt the only thing left to do was to respect Yuval Hayman HY”D on his last journey and attend his funeral. His girlfriend spoke – such amazing and difficult words – of how they planned to marry and bring up a family together and how he promised her these things and now he is protecting her from above.

There were no dry eyes there (I can promise you) and most of the crowd were young people, many of them soldiers – that was who he was. This war has been especially painful for me because all of my friends are fighting down there – wounded in hospitals or still fighting. Every time I see the news broadcast that there are a few casualties, my heart falls down to my stomach as I hope that these are the last names and I wonder if I knew any of them.

I am begging you to please take a moment out of your busy and crazy lives, and pray, or even just give a few minutes’ thought or something, anything . . . We need your thoughts and prayers so badly, our hearts are bleeding and we are crying over our lost boys.  We need to stick together because that is what Hashem wants us to do and that is how we know these soldiers have not died for nothing.

The beautiful side of Israel that I don’t think would happen anywhere else is the fact that all kinds of people have been coming down to the South to give our soldiers what they deserve: chefs, hairdressers, chiropractors, therapists – even masseuses. 

When we went down to the South (when they were still allowing regular people to come down there), it was quite the experience. There were such loud explosions. We were so close and hearing the gunshots and explosions. There were no citizens in sight only Army everywhere – handing those tired, brave soldiers whose smiles really lit up my day . . . Any soldier who wouldn’t take food from me would be followed by me yelling, “You’re insulting me! I came all the way from Jerusalem to deliver these to you and slaved over them all morning!” Obviously I was joking but of course their laughter was just the best – knowing that I did something for those who risk their lives so that I can sleep quietly every night in my bed.

This summer has probably been the worst, most painful and maturing summer that I have ever had ever in my whole life.  I will remember as long as I live that the summer I got out of the army wasn’t a summer of rejoicing and happiness and vacations and parties; it was a summer of prayer and coming together as a nation. It was a summer in which I couldn’t be prouder to call myself Israeli.

Am Yisrael Chai!