April 16, 2024
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Standing in Solidarity on Simchat Torah 5784: Our Story

Enjoying being Bubbe and Zayde at the chocolate factory trip.

As expected, departing for the Holy Land for our yearly trip for the Yomim Noraim to again share with our Israeli grandchildren for the chagim is always in our planning and has become a staple of our life’s routine. All went smoothly at the airport—thank goodness no more COVID testing or needed paperwork confirmations and drudgery—and we’re in. Extra suitcases were schlepped willingly to distribute American products the grandchildren requested, with our joy of witnessing their smiling faces and well worth all the efforts it took to get there.

The flight was accompanied with passengers sharing the same goals with exuberance and excitement. Life couldn’t be better, and we felt fortunate returning once again to Eretz Yisrael.

During our stay, the children were on chag break from Yom Kippur to Isru Chag. Since my youngest grandson was born on Yom Kippur, it’s an easy birthday to remember on the 10th Tishrei. He is convinced that Bubbe and Zayde visit just in time for his birthday celebration. Each day was filled with joy, spirituality and aching feet while enjoying life to the fullest in appreciation of what Hashem offers. Concerts were plentiful during Chol Hamoed whether in Jerusalem or the local streets of Ramat Beit Shemesh with all neighborhoods ablaze with music, song and spirituality for the chag. Sukkah-hopping was part of the venue and all over, pop-up sukkahs were easily accessible to partake of the mitzvah in the Holy Land. Israel was truly infused with the intense Yom Tov spirit throughout.

The turn of events happened so suddenly. The last day on Simchat Torah 5784, we abruptly woke up to constant booms and jets flying overhead. At first, we thought we were delusional and decided it was the sound of thunder until the realization set in. Then the sirens started wailing and that morning we had to run to the mamad room in our son’s house seven times for insulation and protection. We truly were sharing with our family the very routine and experience they have to endure during sporadic times of threat and terror.

On October 7, Hamas launched a three-pronged attack by land, sea and air. From Gaza well over 1,000 missiles were launched into Israel. Media reports compare the attack to the Yom Kippur war of 1973 where Prime Minister Golda Meir was also caught off guard over 50 years ago. However, Israelis are saying there is no comparison since it was a war fought among the armies and not a barbarous attack by civilians on the streets. Therefore, some people compare it to the destruction and tragedy of the second Beit Hamikdash.

Our granddaughter Shira making tzitzit for soldiers in the park at Ramat Beit Shemesh.

That morning we heard constant jets flying overhead with loud, threatening booms. Instead of going to get breakfast as we usually do, we scurried to the safe room “bomb shelter” in reaction to sirens, running for safety within two minutes’ time. As in most homes, a specific bedroom in my son’s house is allocated with metal walls for situations like these while used as a regular bedroom year round, as most Israelis have within their dwelling. Other sources of safety are noted as a stairwell or a mamad community room if a unit does not have one within its living space. We knew that morning that life had instantly changed and terror was lurking within our midst from the enemy.

Looking back, we visited Gush Katif in 2005 right before Israel under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon relinquished the area to the Palestinians as an olive branch to live in peace. Israeli settlers had to vacate their homes and communities, with videos depicting chained Israeli residents in protest while escorted out by the police. When it was taken over by the Palestinians, the beautiful nurseries, greenhouses and buildings were destroyed and the infrastructure was set up as a launching pad to terrorize Israeli civilians with the goal of destroying Israel. Hamas, a terrorist group, was voted into power by their own people through elections. Gaza has been used to terrorize and fire rockets daily into neighboring Israel. Seventeen years later, our olive branch for peace, which never did occur, culminated in thousands of rockets launched to destroy Israel. The plan backfired.

Hamas’ evil perpetrated on civilians, children and babies knows no bounds. The outright slaughter of our people is horrific, barbaric and rampant. We all know 18-year-old Israeli soldiers being called in to serve their country selflessly.

We were fortunate to attend the Mischel wedding right before Sukkot in Israel. Only 10 days later, the chatan was called to duty, leaving only 10 days for the couple’s honeymoon. Both sisters married only within a year, and had to part from their betrothed as duty called. Another friend’s grandchild, a commander called to Gaza who gave his bullet-proof vest to his troop member, was left without one until others became available. Daily funerals of innocent victims and soldiers are ongoing and heartbreaking.

Mundane life as we know it is at a standstill, with many stores closing, school not in session and grocery store supplies and food diminishing. We left Israel this time much later than originally planned. Realizing that other airlines were rapidly canceling on short notice, we focused our efforts on El Al. We finally did reserve a flight through Prague with two other stopovers. It was a 38-hour journey to get home, with strong mixed feelings and overwhelming concerns. Our grandchildren asked us to stay even longer but they understand our dilemma. Although responsibilities beckon, we were remorseful with doubt and strong emotions on our return.

Now we are left with many of the media’s fake news and exaggerations, and protests with their twisted stories slanted to one side. We all know how abruptly we were just under accusation that Israel was at fault for the hospital attack in Gaza only, to find out that reports point to the fault of Hamas’ misfire. The ultimate exasperation lies in the denial of so many who refuse to focus on the real perpetrators who started this whole crisis of barbarism and reign of terror, at this time in the 21st century of civilization.

There are so many stories that are heart wrenching. We pray for Israel, the soldiers and for the senseless killing of our people to stop.


Ruby Kaplan is a realtor licensed in both New Jersey and New York. Visit Rubykaplan.exprealty.com for more information. Ruby can be reached at
917-576-4177 or at [email protected].

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