May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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A Local Mother’s Thoughts: My Children are Under Fire

My old tagline used to be, “five kids, five jobs.” I was known for being a multi-tasker with five jobs to support my five kids. Now, my tagline is “four out of seven kids in Israel.” (For those who are wondering, no I did not give birth to two more children, rather I gave birth to two weddings and now have two amazing daughter-in-laws I love like my own—with­out a C-section; it’s awesome—I highly rec­ommend it). But this summer, my pride is not about my work, it’s about Israel.

This summer was supposed to be a great opportunity for all of my kids, and something they all had been looking forward to for a long time—an opportunity for self-awareness, dream catching, spiritual growth, career ad­vancement—all kinds of personal benefits. Four out of seven were either headed to Isra­el or already there.

My worry radar was not very high, even for my 20-year-old son, Yoni. Many of you may have read about him in the pages of the JLBC in April as I was preparing to join him at his swearing-in ceremony into the IDF in May. As a new recruit, he had many months of ad­vanced training ahead of him, was looking forward to a long hot summer of classes and exercises in the tank division in Shizafon in Is­rael’s south, just north of Eilat, with a promised week off to relax with his friends at some point in the summer. In a relatively quiet area of the country, in the training tanks on the base, sur­rounded by teachers and commanders, I as­sumed Yoni was relatively safe and I would not yet have sleepless summer nights…

Batsheva, my bright and accomplished daughter-in-law, having just graduated Stern College with a double major in biology and psychology, was privileged to be invited to participate in the Summer Science Research Internships for Yeshiva University Students at Bar-Ilan University, and would be given hous­ing at the Gruss campus in Jerusalem. My son, Zevi, of course would tag along, and was look­ing for a business internship to add to his CV upon his graduation next semester from Sy Syms at YU, and had several options in vari­ous types of marketing and hi-tech corpora­tions. However, upon arrival in Israel in early June, he was offered an internship doing busi­ness development at the Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem, and with a lone soldier brother, he figured he could develop his business and marketing skills and do a mitzvah at the same time.

While working on career advancement as their primary goal, Batsheva and Zevi were also excited to use this opportunity of an ex­tended trip to Israel as their “pilot trip,” plan­ning for their eventual aliyah, as well as soak­ing up the language, culture and kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. They looked forward to a care­free adventure as newlyweds spreading their wings….

And then there’s Tali, our adventurous, en­thusiastic avid NCSY’er who has not stopped talking about the summer after 10th grade in Israel since she heard there was such a thing. For at least three years she has brought me brochures, sent me links, begged, borrowed, and worked her tuchas off babysitting till all hours of the night to pay her way, and she did. After much agonizing over which AMAZING summer program to choose from the exten­sive list, she chose Michelelet NCSY, based in the Reishit building in Bet Shemesh, a beau­tiful campus with its own pool, among other wonderful amenities. To save space and not pay for an extra suitcase, I arranged through an old friend in Bet Shemesh to borrow linens and towels and get bottles of shampoo and soap and other heavy/bulky items and de­liver them to Reishit so they would be there when she arrived on July 9. Tali was so excit­ed, she was literally bouncing off the walls in the weeks leading up to departure day on July 8…

So, the story of my life, and now my kids’: man plans, God laughs. Well, maybe He’s not laughing so much this time…

Well, Yoni is not in training, to say the least. My summer nights are not complete­ly sleepless, though, because as a new re­cruit, he is more suited to support at the border than combat on the front. Unlike other mothers in our area whose sons are somewhere inside of Gaza, and my heart aches for them constantly, Yoni is some­where on the Gaza border, working very hard to support the war effort and prepare troops for battle and assist when they re­turn. He does guard duty on the very same border areas that may have surprise tun­nel entrances, and that does keep me up at night, as it does every resident within miles of the border. He’s within rocket dis­tance of Gaza, as is most of Israel. But, he’s never been happier in his life, fulfilling the dream of protecting Am Yisrael from our enemies and doing Hashem’s holy work in Eretz Yisrael and for that I am grateful and proud. He is an eye witness to the unity of the Jewish people, the generosity of stran­gers, the coming together of all walks of life for one common cause and he knows he’s living in remarkable historical times and the hitchalta de’geula. He calls when he can, sometimes once a week, some­times once a day. This is what we talked about on Friday, July 25: (I posted it to fa­cebook, got over 100 likes in several hours and 11 shares)

Despite some terrible losses that touched him—a reservist from his base, an older boy from his mechina (Elisha in N’vei Tzuf), and an injury to one of the boys in his shana bet at Elisha—his spirits are high going into Shab­bat and he and the chayalim are determined as ever to continue till the job is done. About the donations of stuff pouring in (besides lov­ing wearing brand new underwear every day), he said “Mommy, it’s not the donations that we love, it’s the donors—the people who are bringing these things are amazing, from eve­rywhere, every walk of life, every city in Israel, even from other countries. I don’t care what they bring or even if they are empty-hand­ed, it’s that they’re coming.” He went on to say that the “unity of the Jewish people during this tough time is so beautiful, Ii wish it could stay like this forever, I wish tragedy did not have to happen to pull us together, but hopefully we will never fall apart again.” From his mouth to Hashem’s ears.

And how are Batsheva and Zevi? Well, Batsheva goes to her “dayjob” at Bar Ilan every day, and then sometimes at night, she and Zevi run to the bomb shelter in their building in Jerusalem. When that happens, she stops off at every apart­ment on the way down to help couples take their just awakened and frightened children, because that’s the kind of per­son she is. In her spare time, she has been in talks with ElAl and various other or­ganizations on a special secret project, involving “getting a plane” that hopeful­ly will work out and will be the first of its kind to lend critical help to Israel in her time of need. (Stay tuned for details on that). Zevi, never expecting this intern­ship to be what it has turned out to be, is making a huge difference in the lives of lone soldiers, working hard to get them what they need wherever they are. He even bumped into Yoni on a trip down south to deliver supplies to the bases on the border! He is part of an extraordinary team of dedicated people who will go to any length to help these chayalim, and all the chayalim. Man planned, and God put Zevi in the right place at the right time, as he is energetic, ambitious, a doer and a shaker, and the guy to get things done under pressure. We speak almost every day via phone, whatsapp, and facebook, and it is clear that this couple is having the adventure of a lifetime, just not what was expected. They, too, feel privileged to be in Israel now, when Israel needs them most.

How’s Tali? Having the Best. Summer. Ever. as promised by NCSY. So much for the advanced planning of the box of linens and things; the girls never made it to Reishit. Af­ter taking off from Newark while rockets flew over southern and central Israel and with no girls withdrawing from the program de­spite the fear and uncertainty, NCSY whisked them straight from Ben-Gurion up to the north where they have been based in Chispin ever since. There they have set up home base, adapted to the circumstances, and have been sheltered from the war to a large extent with­out ever having to seek a bomb shelter. They have been traveling around the north, partic­ipating in a plethora of fun activities, learning and doing chesed—everything NCSY prom­ised and more. Yes, they are frustrated that they have not yet been to the famous beauti­ful Reishit campus, to the Kotel, Kever Rachel, Chevron, Eilat and other treasured tiyulim they had anticipated. But Tali knows she is also privileged to be there during this time, to do chesed where and when it is needed most, to daven and to learn in the z’chut of her broth­er, his fellow soldiers and all of Am Yisrael. We speak every day and I get daily updates from the administration. Again, this summer is not quite what Tali had in mind, but what an amaz­ing opportunity for growth, both spiritually and emotionally.

Where does that leave me, the mom of “four out of seven kids in Israel”? How’s my summer going? When a lice client walks in and I’m on the phone, all I have to say is “Please wait, I’m on the phone with my daughter in Israel” and they practically bow at me. When I’m at work at the hos­pital and my phone buzzes that it’s Yoni, I find coverage for myself ASAP so I can hear his voice. My colleagues are extreme­ly supportive and will always accommo­date me because they know it’s rare and special. When I’m with a lactation client and I shmooze about my kids, inspiring them with tales of breastfeeding twins, I proudly tell them what those 23-year-olds are up to nowadays and they look down at their newborns and try to fathom that their tiny baby will one day be 23 and mak­ing his mom proud. When I found out Bat­sheva was in the mood for American choc­olate chip cookies to relieve the stress and would be in Efrat for Shabbos, I found home bakers, amateurs and professionals like myself, to send over fresh American-style chocolate chip cookies to her so she would feel our love 6000 miles away. Fi­nally, job number five, as a writer, I share my thoughts and boundless pride on face­book and on these pages, as catharsis, ther­apy, and to receive chizzuk as well as offer inspiration.

And where are the other three? Making me oh so proud, as well. Akiva and Sho­shanah are living in Washington Heights, relatively safe but bullets fly there once in a while, too, y’know. Busy with s’micha studies, graduate school and Internet has­bara, they are doing holy work as well, on these shores, but with an eye to Eretz Yis­rael in their future, b’ezrat Hashem. And lit­tle Batya, attending rallies for Israel, mak­ing videos to send Yoni, saying tehillim every day for the chayalim, and splashing around the pool, her youthful innocence and pure love remind us of the future and why were are fighting this fight, for what is good and right and just in this world.

Job #6: I pray. A lot. May Hashem watch over all my children wherever they are, and all of your children and all of k’lal Yis­rael. May we see a lasting peace b’m’hera b’yamenu.

By L’via Weisinger

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