The summer when I didn’t read any books

As usual I spend the majority of July and August in Norway with my family here. The children are off of school, it is too hot in Israel and very comfortable in Norway, so it has seemed like a good idea to spend a relatively long period here.

The difference this summer, is that the evening before we left, we sat in our bomb shelter  in Jerusalem. The airport we left from had signs at every corner of where to run to the nearest bomb shelter.

Now the children and I have been in Norway for two weeks already. My dear husband was supposed to come and join us in a couple of days from now, but that is not going to happen, as he is out there wearing an IDF uniform defending our country.

Being here in the beautiful land of the midnight sun, while such an ugly war is being fought in the beloved land where we have our home and live our lives, is strange beyond words.

I am really distant geographically, but in my mind, my heart and my prayers, I am SO there! Believe you me!

This is where we are in our spirits these days, - at home, in Jerusalem.

This is where we are in our spirits these days, – at home, in Jerusalem.

Day and night I get updates from Israeli news-sites, and never have I been more active on Facebook, spreading the truth as I see it. And I pray. I pray the Psalms. I pray for protection over my soldier out there, and for all the IDF soldiers out there defending us!

So, – normally during my time in Norway I read a good number of books, enjoying all the free time that comes with summer and being away from home, the nice long days, reading long into the night. This summer I have tried a couple of times, but really, I can’t. Nothing interests me enough to keep me away from the action that keeps on happening constantly, hour by hour, in my home, in Israel!

So here I am again, way past midnight, watching youtube videos of the action in Gaza, the war we fight not against palestinians, but against a terror-organization which still manages to surprise me with how low it is willing to fall. There is no moral what so ever! They are literally fighting with a baby in one hand, a gun in the other! Once the children are older, they give them hand grenades to throw at our soldiers! All the while the bigger terrorists travel around in ambulances to protect themselves!

Oh, God! Free the people in Gaza from Hamas!!! Let Israel finish the job  this time! And keep your protecting Hand over us all!

 

 

The End

Today was the last day of school for Israeli school children. It was supposed to be a joyful day, and it was up until a certain point. It was a day filled with hugs and blessings, excitement and celebrations. My children and I were in a shop where my son had just picked out a soccer outfit, still excited over Holland’s victory in the game last night, – when we first heard the rumors. And just like that, the day turned from light and joyful to horribly sad. They found them. All dead. – Really? I could almost not believe it. – No, we are not sure, I was told. - It is only a rumor. There is a press blackout until the 8 o’clock news. We paid and walked out of there. I felt sick to my stomach. Oh, God! Really?? I felt like a balloon that just lost all its air. Somehow I knew deep within that the rumors we just heard were true.

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We heard the 8 o’clock news in the car on the way home. And it was confirmed. They were in fact all dead. Murdered. Well at home we stay glued to the TV-screen, going through this storm of emotions together as a people. Deep sadness. Heartfelt grief. Sickening hopelessness.

Representatives from the three different bereaved families came out and spoke with the media, and again their faith and walk amazingly helps strengthen us all. In the midst of this horrible sadness, they talk of how they are thankful for the unity of our people at this time, and ask us all to stay that way.

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Almighty father! Please comfort their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, cousins, uncles, aunts, – all of those who were close to them! 

I must say that I am also thankful for the way this has been handled in Israel. The togetherness. All the focus on prayer. Where else do they tell you on the news to keep praying??

Netanyahu ended his statement with the words: - Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay. 

I was so paralyzed with sadness, that the anger did not really hit me until I started hearing the fireworks from the “celebrations” our enemies were having. AAaahhhhhh! It makes me furious! How can they?!? How can we possibly relate to each other as fellow humans?!

Oh, God!!! Bring justice! We so need You!!

 

Nice life and hard realities

June is such a lovely month. Friends from other continents come on vacation to Israel, and we get to enjoy hanging out with them and feeling like we are on vacation as well, – in the midst of our everyday life. Not all bad.

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Long days full of light. Morning walks with a dear friend. Afternoons with the kids at the pool. A glas of good, Israeli wine in good company. Fruit smoothies, ice coffees, watermelon. Oh, yeah, life is good.

But then again, always, constantly, do we think of and pray for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, – the teenage boys who have become close family members of all of Am Yisrael. We have their picture on our kitchen counter. We have gotten to know them, their faces, their families, their hobbies and what they liked to do.

On our drive to school in the mornings, the children include a prayer for the boys’ return in their prayers for the day ahead. And my heart aches for their mothers! What a nightmare to have to live through! All the unknown that they have been thrown into! They did not choose this reality! They did not decide to become famous like this! And now they have to deal with it! They have to remain strong for the younger children they still have at home with them, and for those who they work on returning home as soon as possible! Our Creator and Giver of all life, – Give them strength for the day and hope for tomorrow! 

flowers

This morning I treated myself to an hour of digging through dirt in our garden. Moved plants, got my fingers dirty, removed weeds and rocks, really enjoyed the wanted result at the end. But at the same time, – I am thinking of those who are busying themselves with things on a whole other level, – and who would have much preferred working in their gardens!

Of course it would not help anyone if we all gave up and stopped going for morning walks or enjoying good times with friends. We all have to keep going. Keep living. Keep building. Keep hoping.

Hearing the international criticism of Israel’s efforts to return our boys, is disappointing, but not surprising. We are “messing up the stability in the region”, you know!! Excuse me, – what stability? The one where Fatah and Hamas can cooperate to kidnap our children??!? I won’t go further into this, as I don’t want my blog to get too deep into politics, but I had to touch on it, as it certainly is a central part of life!

I read an interesting piece in the newspaper this morning, that said it well: - If we had done to them, what they would do to us, had they had the power we have, – we would not have been here anymore. But of course, we don’t do it. We have higher values than that. We are not like them. But this is the type of reality we have to live with.

nice life

And here I sit in our garden, having taken my home office out to a shady spot out here, answering calls from people in Beer Sheva and Ashdod, who we will help through the organisation I work for, helping immigrants settle in the Land of their inheritance. This afternoon we have a fun outing with a group of children. Tomorrow there is the end of the year party for my daughter’s class. It’s that time of the year. Life goes on. In spite of everything.

The good and the bad

Has it really been over a month since I wrote anything here?! Time flies when you are having fun! Even if you are not having fun, time can pass really quickly. This is sort of what inspired me to write now. Not about time passing, but rather about having fun and not having fun.

Here in Israel we live with such parallel realities. Constantly. We have amazing highs of the Jewish holidays that we get to celebrate together in such a special way in the Land that God promised to our forefathers thousands of years ago. As a Jewish people in a Jewish Land. It is really special. The togetherness is tangible. The joy. The depth. The thankfulness.

Our table ready for Shavuot, just before we said the blessings and entered into the holiday.

Our table ready for Shavuot, just before we said the blessings and entered into the holiday.

Then, Jerusalem Day, – one of my very favorite days of the year. Celebrating the united Jerusalem. The undivided capital of Israel! What a celebration!! The songs! The flags! The masses of people! What a huge privilege to get to be a part of this.

I am so thankful to be alive, right now, right here, together with the people who happen to have been blessed with life right now also. May we together build something beautiful and meaningful on the basis of what the people who have gone before us have prepared, and that the next generations can keep building on,  - until our Messiah comes! May we do what we can to take our part, to live faithful lives, to make the most of this amazing opportunity that life really is!

The Flag Parade on our way to the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day.

The Flag Parade on our way to the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day.

So, yes, this is the one side of our realities. The positive, optimistic, hopeful and building side.

Then there is the other side. Which we are so reminded of right now when we can’t stop thinking of our three boys who are in the hands of terrorists. Even writing it is painful. The letters, the words, they cannot describe the depth of this catastrophe, this horrible tragedy, this black hole.

Imagine life for the families of these kids. Two of them are only sixteen years old. Sixteen! Think of a sixteen year old that you know, and imagine him in the hands of Hamas. The third is nineteen. Teenagers. Kids! Oh, God!!

(photo from Facebook)

(photo from Facebook)

We pray that God will give wisdom to our leaders, to our military, to each one who is working night and day to return those boys to their homes! Oh, God, hear our prayers!! Protect our boys, their minds, their hearts… May you fill them with your peace that is beyond understanding. Oh, Merciful One…!

The Torah Portion for last week included the story of the twelve representatives of the twelve tribes who were sent to tour the Land of Israel to see what it was like, when the people of Israel were still in the dessert. We all know how it goes. Only two had a positive report to bring. The overwhelming number of ten against two, had a negative report to bring. Actually, come to think of it, their reports were not all that different, it was their attitudes that were miles apart. What does it matter if giants are against us, if God is with us??! What do we have to fear when we have the Almighty on our side? He is faithful to His promises to us, and He will not leave us! He will keep us, lead us and stay with us, just like He has promised!

Western Wall on Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Western Wall

May we take this to heart also in our days. We want to bring a positive report. And more than that, – we want to keep our faith! We want to see things for what they really are. Yes, there are massive enemies surrounding us. Yes, most of the world seems to side with our enemies, not interested neither in truth nor facts. But listen, – the Almighty God is with us! The Creator of heaven and earth, – He goes before us! He holds us in His hands! What do we have to fear?!

So yes, – in the midst of parallel realities, – laughter and tears, in the midst of the intenseness of it all, – let’s keep our perspective right where it should be! We are promised a future and a hope! And we can feel it already in our days! There is something here! We already have a taste of it! And it is here to stay and to grow. And we get to be a part of it! Halleluyah! I would not want to be anywhere else than right here, where God has placed me!

 

Please make noise…

Quite regularly we have a relatively big group of children over to our house. Yesterday afternoon was one of those times. We had ten kids aged between seven and eleven around our dining room table, learning Torah, doing crafts, eating snacks, and well, being kids.

After about an hour and a half of them being kids (read: making noise), a couple staying in the apartment underneath us this week, knocked on the door. They wanted to ask about something completely unrelated to the fact that we had the group of children over, but I mentioned that they must have noticed the fact. The couple then explained that they loved hearing it, because their own home had turned too quiet, as they lost their young daughter in a tragic accident a few months ago… The woman turned to my son who had come to the door with me, and encouraged him to “Please make noise!”.

blessed noise makers

Now that puts things in perspective! Thank God we have these live and thriving little noise-makers! What enormous blessings they are, really! And what a huge change it would be to all of a sudden not have them here anymore… Impossible for us to grasp. I pray for comfort for those who have to go through this nightmare.

The perspective stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and I found myself being very present there with my children also after the group had left. I was thankful for the moments. I enjoyed sitting next to my daughter as she did her Torah-homework, listening to her thoughts and opinions. I loved reading to them from a Norwegian children’s book that we almost know by heart as they ate their evening meal before going to bed. Getting just a tiny glimpse into the loss that the people who are visiting downstairs right now are going through, makes me incredibly thankful for all those everyday kind of moments. I don’t want to them to just fly by, – I want to be there, to be present, and make the most of them.

Thank God for these blessed noise-makers.

Remembering and Celebrating!

When we celebrate the independence of the modern state of Israel, it is a serious thing, that is done in depth and width and with so many aspects to it. As a family we started the season by going to the Hall of Independence in Tel Aviv on Friday last week. What happened there in May of 1948 was very well known to all of us, but being in the room was a first experience, and we were all touched by it. Sitting there and watching the seats David Ben Gurion and his people sat on, as they decided on the final wording of the proclamation of independence. Listening to the recording of his voice saying it: – …a Jewish state, the state of Israel. We heard of what Golda Meir had tearfully said as she sat there and was part of it, and thought of all those who had been brutally wiped out in the holocaust just a few years before; – it is all too late… But then there was the next thought, of the coming generations; - it is not too late for them. 

Independence Hall

As we stood there together and sang HaTikva at the end, I was really moved. Ok, I admit it, I am always moved singing HaTikvah, but this was very special, standing right there, joining our voices to their broken and heavily moved ones from 66 years ago.

Sunday night this week started the day where we respect and honor the memory of those who have died for what we get to live, – the modern state of Israel. We remember both soldiers and terror victims, as they have all fallen for our freedom here. Oh, and there are so many stories, so many individuals. 23 169 to be exact. And as a people, we take a real break and think of them and actively remember them together. At 8 o’clock Sunday evening we all stood in one minute’s silence in their memory, and at 11 o’clock on Monday morning we stood remembering for two minutes. Let me tell you, a LOT can go through your head during two minutes. I am thinking of all kinds of stories, individuals, heroes, who have fallen. I am feeling with and crying with their wives, mothers, sisters… And I am thinking of my dear ones, thankful to have received my own soldier back home time and time again.

As our children get older, they get to take a deeper and deeper part of this remembering as well. Our ten year old son was more touched by it than he has been before. At school they have a place to honor the fallen ones from their school, and they are always remembered in the ceremony at the school. Most of them were graduates who later, in their army service fell as soldiers. Those are of course very tragic too, but there is one that the children can really relate to already, and that is Sivan. Sivan was still a student at the school, when she on a spring afternoon of 1997 went with another girl to buy some school supplies in Ben Yehuda. And there was a suicide terrorist with a bomb strapped to him, who blew the girls up along with himself. They both died instantly.

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

Then there was the story his teacher had told him this year. Of her father being a young soldier, scheduled to do a certain flight. At the last minute, another soldier came and said: – you just got married, I’ll do this flight. He never came back. Had he not done that… we all know what that would have meant for the teacher and so many others. I am sure this young air force soldier is one of those that she remembers as we stand in silence.

As the sun sets at the end of this very emotional day of remembrance, we enter into total celebration, of what these people fought and fell for, of the victory, of the miracle, of Israel!!! And really, – we know how to remember, but we also know how to celebrate!!! And one would not have been what it is, without the other. They are so connected one to the other.

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As you float through the streets of Jerusalem on this night, the overriding theme in your head and heart has got to be: AM YISRAEL CHAI!!! The people of Israel lives!!!

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The amazing joy! The crazy celebrations! The singing! The dancing! The togetherness! All the flags everywhere, on everyone and on everything!

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This year it was also a particularly beautiful night. We have such hot days that they can be hard to bear, but then what helps us bear it, is the knowledge that there will be a beautiful night. Not too cold, not too hot, just perfect for being outside together with everyone else.

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The fireworks were spectacular! Really, better than I can remember them from the past few years. So big! So overwhelmingly taking over the sky! So celebrating!!!

fireworks

We fell into bed, slept well, and woke up to continue the celebrations today. And what everyone does today, is barbecue. It does not make a difference that it is so hot no one really feels like eating anything big, – that is the tradition, so that is what we do.

My daughter's plate at our barbecue today

My daughter’s plate at our barbecue today

People fill up the parks from early in the morning to get the best spots (*read: the shady spots). We felt like quite the winners this year, when we, after sleeping in a bit, went jeeping with friends of ours. This way we could escape the crowds and get to see our beautiful country that we are celebrating today. And, yes, find a good and quiet and nice spot for our own big barbecue.

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I really enjoyed the ride in the car. In the beginning I was suggesting songs about Israel, that the children learnt in gan (preschool), because we have been singing them ever since on this day. But, no, now they informed me that they are much too old for those now. So we ended up sitting there singing Arik Einstein songs. Good times indeed.

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And as we drove down from Jerusalem, through Shaar HaGai, the old tanks standing there decorated with flags are again a reminder of those who fought and fell for what we get to live.

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

Along this road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there is a lot of work going on to improve the road. We are always fascinated by all the large vehicles that work relatively constantly all along the road. Today, however, they were taking a break, and I totally LOVED seeing those too decorated with Israeli flags.

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This just goes to show that we are not only fighting for and defending our land, – we are BUILDING our land, our roads and everything!
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And just driving through our beautiful country, coming close enough to smell the flowers, and even catch the butterflies (yes, that was during the hike, not the actual drive…), is always a joy!

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Going with those particular friends has its fringe benefits, because they get us out relatively early, and therefore also back relatively early. So here I am, enjoying the shade of our umbrella in our garden, watching all the flags we have decorated with here. Not all bad, either. I always love it when all of a sudden there is some surprise free time that doesn’t have anything planned yet.

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards...)

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards…)

Anyway, – whatever I am doing, I am still celebrating! Happy 66th birthday, Israel!!! And, – thank you, God, for this wonderful modern day miracle!!

 

A little bit of creativity

These days my workload is somewhat easier than normal, and as I understood that, I immediately started making all kinds of plans for how I was going to take advantage of all this spare time! :-)

flowers in the garden

What project should I hit first?! Maybe paint all the interior walls of our house? Cook and bake a whole lot and fill up our freezer-space? Get caught up on the years I am behind on the children’s scrapbooks?? Not thinking big projects or anything… Well, I have enjoyed some scrapbooking, and have done maybe 7 pages (about 700 to go…). I made enough meatballs and gravy for about ten meals, which will be convenient to have on busier days. And I have done some smaller painting projects, one of them being this wooden box that some neighbors had thrown out after receiving some fancy wine in it. It fits perfectly in this open shelf that we have in our bedroom.

white box

I have wanted to paint it white for a while, and now was the time. I love these types of projects! You finish them so quickly, and they are like “big”, – you really notice them. Think, less than an hour’s work, and what a result! So much better than, let’s say, – cleaning… You could work for more than an hour, and nobody really notices it. (It’s the type of thing that is most noticed when it is left undone…)

Anyway, – back to the box. I had these nice wallstickers that my mother in law had brought me from the States, and it was hard to choose which one to put on the front of the white box. So I put one on each side, and can just change it around whenever I would like to! :-) (Now of course, those baskets on the shelf above are begging to be painted white as well…)

white box

These are some of the little things in life that just makes me a happier person! No, they are not very deep, I admit that, but then again, if they add something positive to my everyday life, then maybe it will encourage me to add depth in other ways. ;-)

Oh, and look at our blooming pomegranate tree just outside our kitchen window:

pomegranate tree

And we just noticed that for the first time we have almonds on our young almond tree:

almond tree

Oh yes, good things are coming, I can feel it! :-)