אנו עומדים עם ישראל

Count to 15. Yes, seriously. Sit there at your computer and count to 15.  Out loud, in your head, I don't care. Just count.

Done yet?

How about now?

Okay, now imagine that in the time it took you to get annoyed at me for making you count, and then to actually do the counting, your window of opportunity passed. Why? Because you really only had 15 seconds.

What could you have accomplished in those 15 seconds? Probably not much. Well, in the Eshkol region of Israel, just outside Be'er Sheva, 15 seconds is the amount of warning residents are given before a missile falls. 15 seconds. 15 seconds to realize what's going on, to stop what they're doing, to find their loved ones, and take cover. 15 seconds. You couldn't even count to 15 in 15 seconds.

For the last two weeks my family had the pleasure of hosting, and getting to know, an Israeli trauma specialist named Zohar. Zohar lives and works in the small town of Dekel, which is located just 6 miles east of the Gaza border. Zohar is a first responder whose job is to help people whose lives have been so negatively effected by trauma, that they can't continue to live normally.

Zohar and a group of 7 other Israeli women with similar jobs, had the opportunity to come to New York for 2 weeks (all expenses paid) as part of a group called "shalom yisrael". During their two weeks, they lived with host families, explored NYC, traveled to Washington DC, and for the first time in a long time- got to relax. We were lucky enough to be one of the 8 host families and our experience with Zohar is unlike any other I have had in a long time.

There were so many highlights of Zohar's trip, (for me time with her was limited to the weekends because duh, I live in the city) but for me the best part was just getting to know her. Getting to hear about her children, her time in the army, her life, her work, and above all- her love for her country. It's been twelve years since I've been to Israel, and my family doesn't have any relatives there, so while I think about Israel often, I can't say it's on my daily radar. Well if nothing else, this experience confirmed that I need to go back.

Zohar's schedule was very busy while she was here, but we tried to do as many "American" things with her as we could. We took her to get pizza, showed her the mall, introduced her to our dogs, took her to Kohls (she LOVED it), watched Secretariat on the day of the Kentucky Derby, showed her the edge of New York along the water in Larchmont, went out to dinner, and on her last night, made a campfire and roasted marshmallows to make s'mores! Nothing says America like a gooey marshmallow on a stick.
   
 From top to bottom: S'more making ingredients, Zohar enjoying her first S'more, and Zohar and I at the campfire

Everyday Zohar and her family, and the people of Eshkol, are faced with danger. Not random, 'I might get hit by a car today' danger, but real, 'the enemy lives less than a half-marathon's distance away and they have missiles', danger. Last weekend while eating breakfast I asked Zohar why she stays. Why she stays in Dekel when a city further away from the border might be safer. "It's my home" she replied, "I don't have a choice". Her response didn't surprise me, but nevertheless I told her how brave I think she is, and that I'm not sure I would do the same in her situation. She dismissed it assuring me I would. Zohar doesn't see herself as a hero, nor does she think daily rocket attacks, having a safe room in her home or mistaking thunder for missiles, is odd. To her, it is normal, it is part of her every day life and part of what makes her who she is. But to those of us who live in a place where danger is not a daily thought, these things are not normal. I've thought often over the last few weeks about what I would do in her situation. Would I stay?  Would I endure the daily uncertainty and imminent danger? I'm not sure. But I know anyone who does, is a hero to me.

 Mom, me and Zohar enjoying the campfire on her last night

Getting to know Zohar over the last few weeks, and spend more time with the Jewish community, had a profound effect on me. It reminded me of who I am and what's important. I feel so honored to have had the chance to get to know Zohar, and her amazing colleagues, and know this is just the beginning of a long friendship. 


P. S. A more uplifting post to come later this week, I promise

P.P.S For those of you who don't speak Hebrew, the title reads: We stand with Israel.