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!

 

 

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.

yom haatzmaut

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!!!

yom haatzmaut

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

yom haatzmaut

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.

yom haatzmaut

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.

yom haatzmaut

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.

yom haatzmaut

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.

yom haatzmaut

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!
yom haatzmaut

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!

yom haatzmaut

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!!

 

Enjoying Jerusalem Life.

When my dear husband left for the army two and a half weeks ago, he told me to enjoy Jerusalem life while he was gone. Well, I am doing my best to do just that. And really, there is much to be enjoyed.

Jerusalem has lots of nice little coffee shops, for example. I went and tried out a new one with a friend. Here is me at Paris! 🙂

Me at Paris

I actually really enjoy my home here in Jerusalem. This time of the year, that pretty much means my terrace.

me on the balcony

I often have my coffee and home made granola out here in the mornings. And, of course, right now I am out here enjoying another beautiful Jerusalem evening, candles lit and everything.

In between making trips around the country to help new immigrants, and selling DVDs, and keeping various meetings here in Jerusalem going, – there is also time for fun mornings with good friends.

Like this breakfast with a dear friend just outside of the Old City Walls, in the beautiful Mamilla Outdoor Mall.

Breakfast at Rimon

Or, this breakfast with another dear friend back on my own terrace again.

breakfast on the terrace

And the afternoons have been spent with my dear children, in a bit of a temporary single parenthood situation, as my husband is watching over our northern border. So, I get to do all the meals, homework-help, taking to afternoon activities, reading with, putting to bed, getting out of bed etc. etc.

How much FUN wasn’t it then when abba all of a sudden showed up in the middle of baseball practice last week, – he had gotten the evening off to come see his family!!

soldier abba coming to baseballThe children and I are enjoying Jerusalem Life. Most of the days. There are good days, and there are not so good days. Yesterday was one of those with very clear ups and downs. So I decided that today I would surprise them with a major UP when I picked them up after school. So I took them straight to a Pizza Picnic at the Jerusalem Promenade.

pizza picnic

It was a real success. They were so thankful! My son says it was the best surprise ever, and that he will remember it for the rest of his life! 🙂 It really was a very sweet time. It doesn’t take all that much.

I also really enjoy just walking the streets of Jerusalem. And what I do even more is running through the streets. What a treat that is!

out on a run

And, I am thankful for the opportunity to pray at various Jerusalem synagogues on Shabbats. Really, there is nowhere like Jerusalem!

Something is stressing me out, Imma…

– Something is stressing me out, imma… My 9 year old was pouring out his heart to me. He was unable to relax, something was stressing him out, but he didn’t know what exactly.

Hmmm, I’m thinking, – Could it be that your abba is out there defending the borders of our little country, right now… Or could it have anything to do with the fact that we just had an exercise where you had to run to the bomb shelter twice in one day, once at school and once at home??

My children in our bomb shelter during an exercise earlier this week.

Our children in the bomb shelter during an exercise earlier this week.

However, what I am saying out loud, is that everyone goes through periods like this from time to time, and maybe he should try a relaxing bath and then we’ll read a book together on the couch.

And afterwards I am telling myself, who is also getting kind of stressed out by the combination of everything, that everyone is going through times like this, and maybe I should think of something relaxing to do… how about tea and chocolate after the kids are in bed??

bomb shelter

Life…

It can be so wonderfully beautiful, and also so incredibly complicated!

– God, please give me wisdom to give my children what they need when they need it! Oh, God, please fill them with Your Peace, in the way that only You can!!

Our daughter was drawing the whole time we were in the bomb shelter. Here is the finished product:

drawing

She did a pretty detailed job. (Note to self: Next time remove the vacuum cleaner and pack of toilet paper before the exercise…) However, I like how she drew the “music” as we were singing songs together while we were in there. And then she added this thought bubble, with a single question mark, because she didn’t know what we were thinking…

Well, – what is there to think?? What are we doing this exercise for? What is going to happen? Is anything going to happen??

May the focus of our thoughts be that whatever may come, we are safe in His Hands! He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps!

When I was in this same bomb shelter by myself earlier in the day, when the children were at school, I came across this verse from the Psalms:

“I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion is in the land of the living.” Psalm 142, 6

Quite powerful, don’t you think? HE is our refuge!!

Here we go again.

This is a photo from a nice candle lit dinner I shared with my husband in our garden one of the evenings in the beginning of last week.

candle lit dinner

And here is a photo from our breakfast the morning after.

breakfast

And since then, the love of my life has looked pretty much like this:

soldier

Somehow this is just a natural part of life in Israel. Like it or not.

We are proud of our abba, our soldier. We pray for him, and think of him and miss him. But at the same time, both him and us are glad that he gets to take this active part in defending our beloved country. This is something we deeply believe in!

We are thankful to get to live our lives building and defending this Ancient Jewish Land, this young State of Israel!

Remembering together.

Today our flag is on half mast.

half mast Israeli flag

These are such emotional days. Over breakfast today we all shared stories of people we remember on this day, Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror-victims. It really touched my heart to see the tears on the young cheeks of my children, deeply saddened by stories of people who so tragically had lost their lives in the fight for our country.

At school they had talked about a girl who had studied there, who later, on the same day as she started 8th grade, had happened to stand next to a terrorist with a bomb strapped to himself, and blew up with him and everyone around her. Then there was the woman who stood on a bus stop not far from their school, and a terrorist came and put a knife into her heart.

memorial wall at school

memorial wall at school

Abba told stories of people who he had served together with in the army. The guy in the bunk-bed below him, a father of several children, who was shot down and killed on the spot. The guy he had served with for many years, who had a young son and a pregnant wife at home, when he one foggy morning was killed defending our country.

I remember that morning very well. We had been married for four years. No children yet. My husband was in the army for reserve duty, I was home alone. Still in bed, I received a very quick phone call from my dear one in uniform. He just wanted to let me know something had happened on his base, I would hear about it on the news, he could not give any details, but wanted to let me know he was OK. That was it. I remember waiting for the 6.30 news on the radio, where we heard that one of our bases by Gaza had been attacked, and that some of our soldiers had been hit. I sure was glad I had heard from my soldier that morning, but my heart was already aching for those who would never hear from theirs again.

That morning four of our soldiers were injured and four were killed. I visited one of the injured ones at a hospital in Jerusalem. He was a lone soldier, a basketball-player, he had been shot three times in the knee. That was the end of his basket-ball career.

Later, after my husband was back from army duty, we went together to a memorial for his friend that he had served with for a long time. His little son was so cute. The whole story was so sad. This summer it will be ten years ago, and there will be another special memorial service.

Today we all remember the ones we were close to. Our neighbor remembers his brother, who was shot down by an arab who worked for him. Each one has his own special ones that he remembers. At the same time, we remember together. We are in this together. This sorrow, this remembrance, the fight for our country, the defense of our country, the building of our country. The remembering is a central part of our identity, of who we are.

There are ceremonies all over the country today. In cemeteries, at schools, it seems all of us somehow are part of it. We stood in silence at 11 o’clock when the siren sounded all over our country. People who were out driving or on the street, stopped in their tracks. We were at the school, and stood there together as the opening part of a very moving ceremony. We listened to songs and poems, remembered each of those who had gone to that school and later been killed in a war of terror-attacks. We cried together. Prayed together. Remembered together. Remembered those who are the silver platter on which our Jewish state is served to us…

school memorial ceremony

Tonight, after 24 hours of intense remembering and honoring of those who have given their lives for our country, we will move on to celebrate our independence, our freedom, our country. This year we are celebrating the 65th birthday of the modern state of Israel. This is a fact that every preschooler in this country knows. Ask a Norwegian or an American five year old how old their state is, – would they be able to tell you? Maybe, maybe not. Israelis know.

Israeli flags

He is HOME!

As I hear of the cease fire, I of course contact my soldier out there to see if this means he is coming home. And yes, they did start packing as the cease fire started. Which again amazes me. Israel is so full of integrity, -being true to who she is in spite of what the people on the other side are doing. So, we keep our side of the agreement, even if they don’t. But at the same time, we keep on protecting our civilians. So, as the soldiers are packing up, the children in the southern cities are still staying home from school. Get that! We are in a period of cease fire, so our soldiers get to go home, but our population has yet to return to normal life, because we don’t trust the other side to keep their side of the agreement.

The packing up and putting away all their gear would take a while, the soldiers were told, and I was told the earliest I could expect my soldier back would be in the beginning of next week. Late last night came an SMS that there was a chance he would come home already for Shabbat. And as the children and I sat around the breakfast table this morning, there was a knock on the door, – and there was ABBA! (I hadn’t even told them there was a chance he would come today, because I didn’t want them to be disappointed if it didn’t happen!)

So now he is resting upstairs, there is a storm outside, and I am in the kitchen cooking up the quickest thanksgiving dinner ever (my favorite laundry will have to wait till after shabbat). I was able to get a turkey at the supermarket after dropping off the kids at school, and we will have all our favorites to go with it. Ah, life seems so good all of a sudden!! I am not completely happy with the turn of events the last few days, but right now I am just going to enjoy my family and my home, and leave the rest in God’s Hands! (But I will leave a little light on in the bomb shelter over Shabbat, just in case…)

The challah-dough is rising, and today I am planning to make one of the challot in the shape of a ladder, to remind us of Jacob‘s dream that we are reading about in this week’s torah portion. It is really interesting to notice that the angels are going “up and down” on the ladder. They started from  here, meaning that their presence was already here on earth! Tradition says the place where Jacob was resting, might have been the place where the temple later stood, which I find very exciting. Either way, it is a wonderful thought that God’s angels are present with us here on earth wherever we might be!

With this I am wishing all of you out there a blessed Shabbat Shalom, and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating that as well!