Editor’s Note: Rabbi Shalom Lewis, the senior rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim in East Cobb, is in Israel with his wife Cindy. The trip is part of a long-planned sabbatical. In this note, sent to members of his congregation shortly before a ceasefire was announced Wednesday evening in Israel, Rabbi Lewis shares what life has been like in Jerusalem.
Greetings from Jerusalem. We have been gone about two-and-a-half weeks and I have, you should pardon the expression, piggy-backed on Cindy’s Facebook with an update last week.
Many have been in touch and we have tried to keep everyone informed. We are taking classes, attending lectures, touring and walking all over. I find resisting the pastries my most difficult task.
Shopping in the Machne Yehuda market is loads of fun – Kroger will be dull when we return. We have seen the new James Bond movie – loved it – and attended the Moscow ballet’s Swan Lake – gorgeous.
TV here is pretty awful; imagine looking forward to Gunsmoke and Sponge Bob. We are occasionally lucky when we stumble onto an episode of House or Glee. But most of the time we listen to the news on the BBC, France 24 or MSNBC.
When we arrived, Iran, of course, was on our mind; little did we expect what we got. When the Gaza attack began it was after Israeli restraint for months. Rockets had been falling daily in the South. Intolerable for any nation to endure but Israel did until “enough was enough” and they killed the head of the Hamas military and launched a withering attack.
We were shook up this past Friday when, 15 minutes after licht benschin, sirens went off and we went two floors down in the stairwell. We waited; my niece who was with us heard an explosion. Moments later the news announced that for the first time since the first Gulf war Jerusalem had experienced a rocket attack.
A rocket landed about 20 minutes south of us. It was surreal but then it quieted down. The fighting continued as have the rocket attacks in the South. Yesterday, however, at 2 p.m. (Tue., Nov. 20) while I was in a class on Chassidut and Cindy was in her ulpan, the sirens went off. We all filed out to the shelter until the danger passed. Another rocket had fallen about a 20 minute drive south of us.
Still, as serious and as real as it is, we went back to class. This was a lot different than the fire drills of my youth. Last night there was talk of a cease fire but it was not to be. The attacks continue and a ground assault is still very possible.
This morning as we went for a walk, young girls with yellow vests from Israel’s Homeland Security were distributing pamphlets explaining what to do in the event of a rocket attack. We were told we would have a minute-and-a-half to find a shelter or drop to the ground and cover our heads. It was quite sobering.
I am stunned by the world’s insensitivity and tolerance of terrorism. I am stunned by their inability to distinguish between good and evil. I am stunned by the demands for Israel to exercise restraint in defense of the innocent. I am appalled by the lack of moral clarity as expressed by world leaders.
It is now Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 21) and none of us know what will be. We pray that the troops are safe and that only the murderers and their supporters perish in this ugliness.
In the meanwhile we are out of harm’s way and life continues on.