Rosh Hashanah Prayer

We have just celebrated yet another Rosh Hashanah, and as we have just entered a new year, I thought I would take the opportunity to start blogging again! šŸ™‚Ā I had someĀ of those high and inspired moments during the prayer in the synagogue on the mornings of Rosh Hashanah, and I remember thinking afterwards that I should share this on my blog, – so here we go!

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Our Rosh Hashanah table this year

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Jewish fall high holidays, and it comes after a month of spiritual preparation, where we as a people and as individuals draw closer to God. We hear the Shofar-blows as wake-up-calls to remember why we are here, who we belong to, where we came from and where we are headed.

Then we get to Rosh Hashanah, to the feast of Trumpets. This is a two day holiday which is largely spent in prayer at the synagogues. And there is something so special about liturgical prayers, – it links us all together in such an amazing way! The depth of these prayers, these scriptures and songs, fills my heart and gets me to feel so excited about being alive and being a part of THIS!

At our synagogue we had several services going on simultaneously. Such a large part of Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, come out for this, that we need to expand. So as we came in, some people who had started earlier, were praying downstairs, and we heard their shofar-blows and singing. Later, those of us upstairs split up into two groups, and we went downstairs to continue with the second half of the service there, but we could still hear the prayer going onĀ upstairs.

And then to think of the fact that all over Jerusalem, all over Israel, people are praying these same prayers at this holy, set apart time! And in different time zones in different locations, Jews all over the world are praying these exact same prayers, in the same language on this special holiday! Wow! I am thankful to be alive, and to get to spend my life taking part in these types of experiences!

Just listen to some of these prayers:

Remember us for life, O King who desires life, and write us in the book of life – for your sake, o God of life! King, Helper, Savior, Shield: Blessed are You, LORD, Shield of Abraham!

And so may Your name be sanctified, LORD our God, through Israel Your nation and Jerusalem Your city, and Zion, the dwelling place of Your honor…

In the book of life, blessing, peaceĀ and prosperity, and good decrees, salvations and consolations may we and all Your people the house of Israel be remembered andĀ written before You for a good life, and for peace. Blessed are You, LORD, who blesses His people Israel withĀ peace.

AND YOU ARE KING -THE LIVING, EVERLASTING GOD!

Oh, how our voices went upwards together as we cried out:

This day, may You strengthen us…

This day, may You bless us…

To join ones voices together with the ones in the same room, hearing the people above, below, the people in the neighboring synagogue, hearing Shofar-blows all over Jerusalem, – it is a quite heavenly experience! When all these houses of prayer are filled to the brim, with hardly any standing room left even! What a privilege to get to take part in it! To actually have a seat in the midst of it!

And then we prayed together:

As is written: I shall bring them to My holy mountain, and I shall have them rejoice in My house of prayer; their offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted, desired on My altar, for My House will be called a house of prayer for all peoples…

How exciting it is to be alive! And the year we have just entered is 5777. So many sevens! A number symbolizing perfection. And the letter for the number 5 in Hebrew, is Hey, which is often used for HaShem, the God of Israel. He is Perfect, – over and over again! Always! May that be proclaimed wide and far this year!

I find myself having high expectations for this year. May we all faithfully take our parts in the great things that are happening in our time!

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

It is hard to even begin to describe Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. As someone who has joint on to the Jewish people myself, I do not have the same family history with this tragedy, but I feel that whoever I spoke with the last few days, all had a story connected to the holocaust; – Yes, both my parents were holocaust survivors. My mother was in Auschwitz and my father escaped and was able to get false identification papers. Or, – my grandmother was in Auschwitz. Or, – my father was the only survivor of his family. Or, – I was named after my father’s mother, who was killed in the holocaust.Ā There are SO many stories! This gets SO real here! And of course, it WAS way too real for way too many people.

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At the children’s school, each of the children were given the name of a person murdered in the holocaust. They searched and found out some information about the person, and then on Holocaust Memorial Day they lit a candle in memory of this person. Each candle had the name of a person written on it. This was done at very many schools in Israel this year. Sadly there are plenty of names to go around, – 6000000 of them…

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One of the candles at the school had the name our daughter’s friend’s father. We know him and everything, and it was kind of strange to see his name on a memorial candle. The explanation is that he is named after his uncle whom he never met. His father survived alone, after losing his father, mother and brother in the holocaust. He himself came very close to dying, but survived and made it to Israel, where he married and had three children whom he named after his brother, father and mother. What a way to keep on living, to choose life!

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The horrors we are remembering on a day like today are so awful, there are no words to fully describe them. Being at the ceremony at the school this morning, I looked out at the crowd of children, and felt my heart aching that they have to learn about this reality already. Our children are big, 10 and 12 years old, and I still feel bad for them, but here were first graders, – six year olds! It wasn’t like people were telling all the worst stories, but even in the traditional “remembering-prayer” there are enough horrific details to make me sick (maybe especially the “being buried alive”-part…).

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Our 12 year old son is a very sensitive boy, and he takes days like these very heavily. Couple the sensitivity with curiosity, and you have someone who is looking up details of the holocaust, and afterwards loosing his appetite and just feeling deeply sad that something like that ever happened for real.

And it leaves me feeling sad that he has to already be marred by this tragic part of our history. Yet again, – it is part of who we are. People had to live through it (or die through it…), the least we can do is learn about it and remember them and what they had to go through.

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All of the holocaust ceremonies end in the same way. We stand and sing the “Tikvah”. And how fitting it is! We have hope! We are living that hope! Hope of being a free people in the Land of Zion and in Jerusalem!

 

 

 

Enjoying the ride of the marathon

As I started running my 8th marathon, the third one in Jerusalem, I felt in my whole body how much I LOVE marathons! I love the sounds and the sights and the feeling of it! The music, the crowds and the celebration of long distance running! And this year we were also blessed with absolutely ideal weather conditions for the Jerusalem marathon. It was not too hot, not too cold, no rain and hardly any wind.

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About a minute before the start of the race. Me excited, he somewhat worried. And of course, he always does WAY better than me in the actual race!

During the first kilometers I talked with many interesting people. One runner was from New York, another one from Sweden, both of them visiting Israel for the first time to run the Jerusalem marathon. I warned them of the hills coming up, at the same time as I encouraged them to take in all the beautiful views and enjoy running through the streets of Jerusalem. I also talked with different Israelis having come up to Jerusalem to run here as part of their training for an ultra marathon (a longer distance race than a marathon), and I think that says something about the challenging level of this particular marathon.

Running down Jabotinsky, we met the half marathoners who were climbing that same hill nearing their finish line. I encouraged them to the best of my abilities, and told them to keep going strong till the end, – to think of the medal that is waiting for them! At the bottom of the hill, I noticed a journalist friend with her team, and we said a quick hi to each other.

I totally loved the first hour of running, and the second hour went well too. Running down Jaffa road is a joy! Seeing all the runners ahead of you, being part of that river running through the streets of our beloved city, hearing our feet pound the pavement. I was enjoying it with all of my senses!

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(Photo from Facebook.)

We climbed the hills to Mt. Scopus, and met the elite runners on their way down. We all encouraged them, and I kept on yelling encouragement to all the runners we met. They really were doing great, so it was not hard to do so with enthusiasm, and it helps keep my mind off my own efforts climbing the hill. As I started the last hill before the Hebrew University, I met my sporty husband on his way back down. We yelled some encouraging words to each other and threw kisses through the air. I was happy to note that he seemed to be ahead of where he had been at that time in earlier years, so he was probably going to get a better time. The truth is that several times during this marathon, I thought of his finishing time and of the finishing time of our son who was really hoping for a PR in his 10K race. They are more concerned about their actual finishing time, while I am mostly focused on having a good time WHILE running the marathon. And I was enjoying myself, so, – so far, so good! šŸ™‚

The marathon route goes around and behind the Hebrew University, just to include some more heavy hills, and some more stunning views! The view of Jerusalem below us was amazing, as the sun was giving it a golden shine. Several runners stopped to take pictures, but I knew from experience that I am not able to capture its real beauty that way, so I kept my phone in my fueling belt and kept running. In a heavy climb behind the University, the Swede that I had met early on in the race, asked me if this was the hardest part of the marathon. I answered that yes, this was a rough part, but there are several smaller hills waiting for us downtown too.

There was a lot of security along the whole route, and especially at remote places like this one behind the University. I made a point to thank the border police who were out there keeping us safe. I also thanked the crowds of spectators along the course, who were out cheering for us. They really do take a very big part in making this such a special event.

I had planned on utilizing the downhill from Mt. Scopus to the Old City in a good way, but unfortunately I struggled with an old fashioned side cramp at that time, so I didn’t push myself. After all, – I am out there enjoying myself, remember?! In the middle of that downhill, there is one uphill (you may not notice it normally, but believe me, when you are running, you notice it!), and right now that uphill came in useful, as it took away my side cramp! šŸ™‚

The next challenge was running through an almost kilometer long tunnel, at about the half way mark, just before getting to the Old City. The tunnel was added to the route last year, and I really did not like it then. But this year, I was prepared for it, and was able to handle it better, even if the smell of sweaty runners was pretty bad in there…

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I ran with these guys for part of the race. (Photo from Facebook.)

Having come more than half way through the marathon, I felt quite happy. I was enjoying myself, and remember thinking that two and a half more hours of this, would be just fine, – I love marathons!

Climbing the short hill to Jaffa Gate, I remembered the photographer that normally gets good pictures at that location, so I smiled and lifted my arms (which I did to all the photographers I noticed along the course). Running through the Old City was really beautiful. This experience never gets old. Lifting my feet and moving forward on these old stones, thinking of the history and the dreams that are part of this place, seeing these old and special walls next to me! IĀ had lots of beautiful Jerusalem songs going through my heart and head! Love!

Coming out of Zion gate, more beautiful views meet us as we run down a hill before starting the climb to Mt.Zion hotel. I saw a friend there, which is always fun, and part of the blessing of running in the city you live in. At the top of this hill, we make a turn, and I met my sporty husband again there! He looked like he was doing great! We then come around and climb another little hill by the Bell Garden before heading towards our climb of Jabotinsky. All along this area, there were lots of spectators, which I found really encouraging. Little kids were out there giving you high fives, whole families had come out to join in the festivities, – it was a true celebration to run through it all!

One of my challenges in all of my marathons, is that I always manage to run way further than 42.2 kilometers. In other words, I am horrible at cutting corners, or taking the turns the right way, – and it is not like I am not trying! Not long after seeing the 23rd kilometer mark, I heard this message through my headphones: “Distance: 24 kilomers”. And at the same time as I saw the 27th kilometer mark, I heard: “Distance: 28 kilometers”… Ok, I thought, I will make one PR today, – the longest distance I have ever ran…

In the midst of this, I decided it was time to turn on the playlist I had prepared specifically for this race. And wow, – it was epic, – having this great running music in my ears and running down Emek Refaim which was filled with encouraging spectators! I felt myself choking on tears, that’s how moving this whole experience was! I almost felt like lifting my arms even though no camera was in sight!! Ha!

This elevating experience, however, made me pick up my speed a little too much, and my side cramp came back. Not good. Coming up the familiar bike path that is part of most of my training runs, I enjoyed my great music, but still struggled with the side cramp. This was still the case as I ran Hebron road, and I promised to let myself walk up the next hill, to try to get rid of the side cramp.

A nice song with this text came up on my playlist: “If it’s fast or slow, all I really know, is I’m gonna enjoy the ride.”, and I felt that being the theme of my marathon this time. I was out there enjoying the ride, feeling happy and privileged to take part in it.

At the bottom of the hillĀ atĀ around the 31st kilometer mark, I met a friend who was out there with an encouraging sign with my name on it! How fun!! She walked the hill with me, and it was a nice and welcome break.

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Next up was running by the Jerusalem promenade with another stunning view of our beautiful city. Afterwards we even ran into our neighborhood a bit, and there, as I passed the 34th kilometer sign, I heard this message in my ears: “Distance: 34 kilometers”. What?! I started wondering whether I was cheating or hallucinating… Where did my extra kilometer go?! But really, I had followed the route, and turned at the right places… I concluded that it must have been the ones placing the marks that had done so with somewhat uneven intervals. Confusing when you are out there quite focused on these markings. But, of course, it is nice to realize that you don’t have to run an extra kilometer at this point.

I saw some more friends and people I know in this area, and my friend with the sign showed up two more times. Really nice! I also saw someone who I know has ran several marathons in the past, who encouraged me, and encouragement coming from that type of person, is taken to heart in a special way. She knows what she is talking about!

I really appreciated all the encouragement in this part of the marathon, because, even if the side cramps had gone away, they had been replaced with another challenge. I was feeling really, really nauseous. So much so, that I ended up having to take many walk breaks, which is something I have had limited understanding for when I have seen others do in this part of the marathon in the past.

So, while I had had so many happy thoughts of loving marathons earlier on, this last hour of the marathon, was a reminder of that this is the actual marathon. A marathon is not like running four 10Ks and then a little more at the end. I love 10K training runs, but four of those do not make up a marathon, because you do not do them straight after each other… The way you cope with keeping on running after having already ran for more than 3 hours, that is the real marathon-experience. And let me tell you, – it is challenging.

I felt that I really had to work on balancing my stomach… It was annoying, because when I had 5Ks left, I understood that I could actually beat my own time from my last marathon in Tiberias. But I was not going to throw up, as that is not part of “enjoying the race” as I see it…

I walked up the steepest part of Kovshei Katamon, a cruel hill around the 39th kilometer mark, but somehow handling my stomach was harder than handling the hill this time around.

This time, I was the runner who walked across the marking on the road that said 41,5 kilometers. Whenever I have seen others doing that in the past, I have been thinking to myself: “What is with you?! You have less than ten minutes left, -just keep on running till the end!” Now I all of a sudden gained an understanding of why some people are walking this part. This time I was one of those taking quite frequent walk breaks, while doing my best to just make it to the end.Ā The song on my playlist was quite fitting with this text: “Wake me up when it is over…”. Yes, please.

I had been running for a bit when I saw the 42K mark, and tried to pick up my speed a little bit. There was the finishing gate within sight, my eyes fill with happy tears as I raise my arms in joy and hear my name over the loudspeaker, – and I am DONE! I made it! Oh, joy and relief,- I don’t have to keep on running any more! My finishing time was 4:34:59 and the total distance I ran was 42,4 km. By far not my fastest, but also not my slowest marathon.

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Done! Made it! Oh, joy and relief, – I don’t have to keep on running any more!

I got my golden cape and my medal, and I found my husband and son there, – who had both gotten great new personal records on the course that day, by the way! So happy for them and proud of them! We got our pictures taken in various cool spots in Sacher Park which was all one big celebration. It had been anotherĀ good marathon experience, which I feel privileged to have the health and strength and ability to take part in.

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And, isn’t it funny, after crossing that finish line, it is not the last hard hour that is fresh in your memory, but the whole wonderful experience of the celebration of long distance running! It is the feeling of completing a challenge, being able to push your own limits, and the joy of having made it past the finish line!

 

Jerusalem, my home! How amazing!

The other day I was on a work-related trip to Tel Aviv. Driving home from there, following the roadsigns to Jerusalem, I almost had to pinch myself to believe that this is really the life I am living. Even now, – having lived in Jerusalem for almost two decades, I am still that excited about it. Just imagine, – I get to call Jerusalem my home! I get to follow the roadsigns to Jerusalem when I am heading home!!

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Living in Jerusalem has many different aspects to it. Right now the challenging aspects of life in Israel are showing themselves. Daily we get news updates of the horrible terror that is coming against our people, – our women, our mothers, our children. It is hard to describe with words, and it is a reality nobody should have to deal with.

Yet at the same time, somehow, this strengthens us, it strengthens our identity of who we are, as very different from the ones who are coming against us like this, worse than animals. It makes it very clear who we have to turn to, to cling to and to trust in, – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, – the God of Israel!

And somehow, in spite of this difficult reality, the people of Israel manage to have a joy of life that I find admirable! It may be what comes from gaining perspective, building something, sacrificing, – it may be the fruit of living for something bigger than yourself.

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In the mornings I like to take time to read the Bible, and so often I come across such amazing, beautiful promises to Israel, and not the least to Jerusalem! And then to think, I get to be here, to live here, to have a part in these promises, in this wonderful hope!

Just look at these promises from Zechariah 8:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal;Ā 

With great fervor I am zealous for her.’

‘I will return to Zion,

And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,

The mountain of the LORD of hosts,

The Holy Mountain.’

‘Old men and women shall again sitĀ 

In the streets of Jerusalem,

Each one with his staff in his hand

Because of his great age

The streets of the city

Shall be full of boys and girls,

Playing in the streets.’

‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east

And from the land of the west;

I WILL BRING THEM BACK,

AND THEY SHALL DWELL IN THE MIDST OF JERUSALEM.

THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

IN TRUTH AND RIGHTOUSNESS.’

What promises! What hope! And let me tell you, – it is happening already! Now and in our days! The process has begun, and it is truly an amazing thing to be a part of!

Living where my heart is.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. Blue sky, crisp winter air. I went for a nice run and really enjoyed our wonderful city.

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Afterwards I was still just really happy, going about my day at home, when all of a sudden BOOM, there was this news update on my phone. Terror attack by Jaffa gate.

Not long after came more details. Several innocent people seriously injured. Two terrorists attacked them with knives. I must admit, this knocked me out. I was really crying. I don’t know if it was because it was at a place I very often walk by, or if it was because of the extreme contrast to the state I was in right then or what it was, – but this one was a hard one to handle.

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I contacted my husband and was thankful to get a confirmation that he was nowhere near Jaffa gate. I prayed for the victims who were rushed to the hospitals, I prayed for the doctors and people treating them, I prayed for the families as they were being informed of this tragedy that had hit them all of a sudden. My heart really ached for them!

By the early evening we were informed that two of the ones injured in the attack died of their wounds. Two fathers. Aged 40 and 45. So tragic. My heart is crying for their families.

Today I went to the place where this terror attack took place. And as I was there, I got this feeling of thankfulness to be able to go there. To be able to go to the place where my heart anyway was already.

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One of my closest friends recently left Jerusalem. (Very sad, of course.) She could not handle the situation of living here right now. I remember one of our conversations as this wave of terror started a few months back. She wished she could leave right away, while I was so thankful I did not already have a planned trip and had to go. When the city my heart is connected to is under attack, there is no other place I would rather be than right here, with the people of this city.

I have actually just had a few days now where I have been missing my family in Norway, but today, when I stood there by Jaffa gate, I was just SO THANKFUL that I get to be right here! When my heart is here already, it is something very satisfying with being here in body too!

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Nowhere else have I felt life more celebrated than in Israel. There is a depth and a meaning to life here that my very being resonates really strongly with.

And the fact that we feel the pain when we are hurt, is just natural, – I would not want my heart to get hardened and unable to connect to the pain when it hits us.

In Israel you get a feeling that our lives are worth living! We are living for something bigger than ourselves! We are making a difference! We are building something together! I feel privileged to be able to take my part in that.

I get to live where my heart is, and I am so thankful for that.

Hanukkah in Jerusalem

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I love Hanukkah! Currently it is my favorite holiday of all. It is so amazingly beautiful, so cozy and at the same time so deep.

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We celebrate the miracle of Light. For eight whole days, and not the least for eight beautiful nights we focus on Light!

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I can now look back on eight days full of sweet moments. So many amazing sights of shimmering oil lamps and flickering flames.

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Songs of darkness being removed as light comes in and takes over, and songs of how each one of us are all little lights!

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I have loved having my children home from school for the days of Hanukkah. This makes for so much more relaxing evenings, and not the least more relaxed mornings! It was a wonderful and much needed break for all.

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And I have LOVED walking the streets of Jerusalem during these cool Hanukkah evenings. Seeing the hanukkiot (Hanukkah-menorah) getting fuller and fuller every night, ever more beautiful and bright.

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And there are so many of them! Last night my dear husband and I went for a long run through Jerusalem, and we decided to count how many hanukkiot we saw on our way. The final count was 773 hanukkiot!!!

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The focus on the theme of dedication has been special for me this year. The name of the holiday, “Hanukkah”, means “Dedication”. The Temple was re-dedicated to God, to be a holy and suitable dwelling place for Him.

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The challenge that I am taking with me as we go towards the end of this year’s Hanukkah, is to dedicate myself even more to be a good dwelling place for God. I want to make more room for Him, to fill myself even more with Him, spend time in His Word and get closer and closer to Him.

 

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The strength of continuing life in the midst of everything.

I am just going to say it as it is. I am so proud to be a Jerusalemite. I am SO proud to be Israeli. What a people this is! What strength it is showing in the midst of enormous difficulty!

My beautiful Jerusalem

My beautiful Jerusalem

Just getting up and continuing life takes an effort when there are large forces out there that are doing their best to paralyze you with fear! The fact that horrible lies about us are being spread around the world, takes away whatever would be left of energy. Yet, – we continue to go about our lives. There is a real strength in that.

It was wonderful to walk to synagogue on Shabbat morning and find that the streets were as full as they normally are at that time of the week, and we still greet each other with Shabbat shalomĀ – in spite of everything, or maybe with even more intent than normal, because of everything!

I found that it was even more upbuilding and encouraging to pray together than it normally is, this past shabbat morning. To call out to God from the depth of our heart! To proclaim back to Him, His truths and His promises, felt really good!

Rock of Israel! Arise to the aid of Israel and redeem as You pledged Judah and Israel!

O, King, Helper, Savior, and Shield. Blessed are You LORD, Shield of Abraham!

The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation! Halleluyah!

The LORDĀ will giveĀ strength to His people! The LORD will bless His people with peace!Ā 

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Sunday morning I went for a nice and enjoyable run. I will admit that I slightly changed the route because of the situation we are in, but still, it felt really good to intentionally NOT give in to the fear that would just want me to not leave home whenever I did not absolutely have to. Going out running has been very helpful for me for the last few days, actually. it energizes me and gets positive thoughts going through my system as supposed to just being drained by all the negative things one so easily could have focused on. It is an intentional choice, really, what to focus on, and for me, running has somehow helped make that choice easier.

After the run, my waffles and I were off to our women’s group meeting. Good times as always, even though conversations naturally were quite influenced by everything going on in our country. (I mean, do you normally make plans to go to self defense classes at your women’s group meetings??)

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Monday morning I went on a work-trip to Haifa. A wonderful trip through our beautiful country! After buying two cooking stoves, one washing machine and three fridges for different needy immigrant families in the area, I got to go to the beach for a little while before heading back home to Jerusalem. I even got to meet up with a sweet friend who used to live in Jerusalem. She is one of the most positive people I know, and it was great to go for a walk on the beach with her and talk up a lot of positive energy! šŸ™‚

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And look at the “Dove of Peace” that I found in the sand:

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Yes, life is continuing in spite of everything! Back in Jerusalem, I found out that Israeli flags to hang on our cars (the ones we usually buy for Israeli independence day) are being given out for free, – because of everything going on right now!

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This is our answer! i hope you are listening well, world, because this is our message: We are not giving in and we are not giving up. We are living and we are going to continue going on living! AM YISRAEL CHAI!!!