Summertime, and the living is easy?
It’s hot here in Israel this time of year. So hot that brush fires are popping up all around the country. They are only mildly dangerous and easily extinguished. Sometimes they are man-made and sometimes inadvertently sparked. One such brush fire was ignited in the field behind my sister’s house a couple of weeks ago by a tractor’s blades. My nephew frantically called my sister, vacated the house and waited for the fire company to arrive. The bougainvillea plants that bordered the yard are gone now, but the house is safe and the fear is gone.
Mostly. After all, how does a boy of 12 rid himself of the images of the flames approaching his house? How does a child protect himself against the fear that accompanies hearing a recording of 3 teenagers being kidnapped and shot, their captors rejoicing, and the message being played across every media outlet? How does a family find normalcy when each person’s tablet and phone rings with an alert of every “color red” that is declared for the neighborhoods twenty miles away?
Nancy and I arrived here yesterday for my niece’s wedding celebration. We enjoyed a trip to McDonald’s for dinner, and attended my sister’s community choir concert. The kids got up this morning and went next door to hang out in the pool overlooking the scorched field. Life is as normal as ever, it would seem.
Except for the anxiety just beneath the surface. The “safe room” is 45 seconds away if needed, they joke. Two “Iron Domes” are in the area, they assure themselves. The police are present in large numbers on the roads in and out of Jerusalem to assure the public and to dissuade any who might be tempted to kindle a new fire. The family is monitoring the news, praying that a thorough police investigation will reveal that the killing of a young Palestinian boy was something other than an act of Israeli revenge.
It is hot here, that is for sure. But Israel won’t let us see her sweat. Life is more complicated than ever. Our children who are visiting here are as safe as anywhere else, I assure you. And there could not be a more important time for us to be here to offer some love and comfort. The difference is that we will return to the United States, to a place where independence means not relying on others for political, financial or even emotional support. For those who call this place home, there is no place else to go. So they will live with the anxiety, and keep praying for rain.
Shabbat will be here soon. I think I’ll join my nephew in the pool.
Rabbi Craig Scheff