After a wedding errand in Sederot with Sagi’s mom Racheli, we waited for a long line of trucks to go by before we could turn left onto the highway back to Mefalasim. When I asked her where all the trucks were coming from, she shrugged and said, “from Gaza”. Why? “They are returning from dropping off the day’s humanitarian aid, food and medicine.” Every day? “Sure. We bring them supplies every day.”
Stymied, I tried to wrap my mind around the simple fact of Israel’s taking care of people in Gaza, the neighbors who are still trying to build terrorism tunnels under the kibbutzim where Sagi grew up.
Racheli says that she does not think about missiles or terrorist attacks when it has been relatively quiet for a period of time. She tells me that she blocks it all from her mind. I am just a visitor, and I am the opposite in my response. When I am here in the south, all I can do is think about that long period of time when missiles fell every day on Sederot and the surrounding kibbutzim of Shaar HaNegev. Long before Iron Dome, missiles reached the ground and took away peace of mind and people’s lives. Since the miraculous protection of Iron Dome, still no one here lives with a complete sense of security.
I think about it all the time. I look at the waitress at the restaurant in Sederot and imagine her as a young girl, running for shelter with 15 seconds notice. I sit with Sarah as she has her hair done for the wedding later today and wonder how Shupan kept his business running through those years.
I sit in Racheli’s classroom at Shaar HaNegev High School as she presents an experiment to her chemistry students and notice the sign just next to the whiteboard. It is a sign we would never see in America: in case of tzeva adom, a red alert, do not leave the building. I observe Racheli’s students and acknowledge to myself that they have never lived in a world without threat from their neighbors.
At the entrance of Kibbutz Nir Am, on the way into the guest cottage, I pause to think about the very beginning of Protective Edge… and of two Israeli soldiers who were killed here. On my morning run, I cannot avoid looking at the barbed wire surrounding the entire kibbutz.
But then, I see a sign. I mean that I see a sign and also that I see a sign! It says: Beware! Narrow Bridge.
And I complete the significance for myself: all of the world is just a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.
Praying every day for peace for Israel, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill
If we say, “Next year in Jerusalem” at a seder in New York, what do we say when we make a seder in Jerusalem? The answer is that we still say, “Next year in Jerusalem” because we pray to be in Yerusalayim L’Malah, Jerusalem on High, the future Utopian time when all will be peace. Singing about being in Jerusalem is a moment of hope and open-heartedness every year at the end of the seder, but this year, actually sitting at a seder in Jerusalem, I felt even more optimistic.
We made our seder with my brother Eric and lots of my cousins at a hotel in Jerusalem. As I looked around the large ballroom, I saw tables of thirty and tables of three. There were Jews in white shirts and black pants, Jews dressed in high fashion, and Jews in jeans. As each table began to sing “Dayenu,” we heard more different tunes than I thought possible. There were tables that were being served dinner before our table asked even the second of the four questions. While we sat at the table singing for a long time, we still were not the last table in the room. Every kind of Jew in Israel celebrates Pesach. Walking back through the streets of French Hill to our apartment at close to 1:00 a.m. I felt that anything is possible. Next year in Jerusalem.
We have been spending Chol HaMoed (the middle days of Passover) with Sarah’s boyfriend Sagi’s family on Kibbutz Mefalsim (next to Sederot, in the south), mountain biking and hiking. Everywhere we go, we see Israeli families enjoying the Passover vacation. It is the gift of Israel to be on the same calendar with everyone else! If I am hoping for next year in Jerusalem, so are all the other Jews I see.
Our youngest, Joshua, announced his intention to make aliya and follow his sister’s footsteps into the IDF. We couldn’t be more proud. With the great possibility of two out of four of the Drill children making lives in Israel, it will really be true for many years to come that we’ll be saying, in a real way, “Next year in Jerusalem.” As a Jew with faith, optimism and a belief in Jewish destiny, I will always say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” I’ll say it when I am here for Pesach, here among people living according to the Jewish calendar, here as a mother of Israeli offspring. I’ll say it when I am with all of you at the OJC for Pesach, among the people in the congregation that I love. My task never sways from working to bring about a better day for all humanity. Bashana haba-ah B’Yerushalayim.
L’hitraot, See you all soon! B’yedidut, with friendship,
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill