Shabbat prayer

This Shabbat’s combination of wintery weather and day-of-rage-promises from our enemies close by, did not make it hard to come up with reasons to just stay home. But, really, in difficult times, it is important to stand together, – that is the way that we are strongest, and that is the way to keep on really living!

Jerusalem

So we went as a family to pray in the synagogue this morning, – and it turned out to be one of the most uplifting mornings in a long time! Each one of the prayers just stood out as such a strong and fitting one at a time like this!

Just think of all the times that we call God “Magen Avraham” or “Magen David” – “The shield of Abraham” or “The shield of David”! He really is our shield! It was just so helpful to regain perspective of this, and be reminded of just who God is! Listen to this;

True is the eternal God, our King, Rock of Jacob, Shield of our Salvation.

He exists and His name exists through all generations.

His throne is established, His kingship and faithfulness endure for ever.

True, You are the LORD, our God and God of our ancestors,

our King and King of our ancestors, our Maker,

Rock of our Salvation,

our Deliverer and Rescuer!

Rock of Israel!

Arise to the help of Israel.

Deliver as You promised, Judah and Israel!

And how about this:

Blessed are You, LORD,

who blesses His people Israel with peace.

Amen! May it be so!

The One who lifts up my head

As we were having breakfast yesterday morning, the news ticked in on both my husband’s phone and my phone about the terror-attack that occurred in a synagogue. Ever since then, the horror of what happened has never been far from my mind. The pictures are awful! The pools of blood in combination with prayer shawls, prayerbooks and tfilin-straps, – the contrasts are just appalling! How can someone enter a sanctuary with a meat-chopper and just start slaughtering people?!? It is so beyond human understanding that we have no words to describe this kind of evil.

At school the children are told not to go around outside by themselves these days. I received an e-mail with pointers as to how we are to cope with this situation of ever heightened security-levels, and we are told to report anything suspicious. They will make the educational institutions even more secure than before, for example.

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A rainbow I saw in Jerusalem this week. Such a wonderful reminded of God’s faithfulness!

At the same time, life goes on. Really, it does. There is work to do, homework to help with, laundry to be folded, and floors to be washed. Our son had a friend over, and they had fun playing with the soccer-table. We made pasta for lunch and pancakes for dinner. We are enjoying the cooler winter-temperatures, and turned central heating on for the first time. Yet, at the same time as we have this type of normal day, there are these constant thoughts of the nightmare that some people in our city are going through right now, and how the whole situation also applies to us.

I am not the only one with those types of thoughts, – the children definitely have them too, in spite of playing and all. As they went to bed there were many questions regarding the safety of our home and our neighborhood and so on. And no wonder why. Really. What makes us any safer than the victims in this last wave of terror?

As I put together a pumpkin loaf after the kids went to bed last night, I heard them call out from their beds. – “What was that noise? It wasn’t thunder, was it? It sounded like gunfire.” I started saying that maybe it was just the noise of building, but we all realized that it could not have been that at that time of the day, so I went with the truth that it is probably just people celebrating (with gunfire) in one of the neighboring Arab villages. Not the easiest of truths to live with either, but there could be worse alternatives.

One can be tempted to just close oneself and ones dear ones up inside the house, order groceries online and just not go outside. But if we limit our lives like that, we really hand the terrorists their victory on a silver platter. That is exactly what they want! They want us to be paralyzed with fear. They want us to stop living. And however challenging, – we are not going to give them that victory! We are keeping on living here in our homeland, – and that is victory!

This morning, – the day after, – I kind of woke up with a heavy feeling from yesterday. And I  thought I should replace some of the news-updates with Psalms, and I am telling you, – it was like balm to my soul: – especially Psalm 3 spoke straight to my heart: 

LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.

Mamy are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.”

But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.

I lay down and slept. I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O LORD, Save me, O my God!

For you have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone.

You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongs to the LORD.

Your blessing is upon Your people.

May we always keep finding strength and perspective from Him who still sits on the throne! He certainly was the One who lifted up my head today. May we all live close to Him, feed on the real source of Life and go around with our heads lifted up!

Surreal realities

Tensions are building all throughout my beloved country. I can feel it in the air. And, – I get constant updates about it on my phone! And while I read about the seriously injured woman succumbing to her stab-wounds this afternoon, I also help my 8 year old daughter with her math homework. Because life goes on quite normally next to these very surreal realities, – which unfortunately are way too real!

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Two stabbing attacks just today. How can you defend yourself when your enemy comes against you with cars and knives as weapons? Willing to give their own life as long as they get to take some Jewish lives with them in the process? It is so evil. It is beyond sickening. There are no right words for it. It is so inhuman, it is so hard to relate to, we just don’t even know where to start! One thing we can learn from these days, is that there is certainly NO partner for peace to be found among the leaders who encourage such acts!

Then, at the same time, – life goes on. For the past week or so I have been traveling around our beautiful country with a small Norwegian group of tourists. I love being part of the process where people get a connection to the Land of Israel. We had many first impressions, learning experiences, beautiful moments, good conversations and yummy wine!

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Today we walked around Jerusalem. Mostly around the area of the old city and the Mount of Olives. And it is funny how it works out, – wherever you go, there are stories to tell! So much has happened right here! There are many layers packed with history under the ground we are walking on! Amazing! And, – I get to call this city my home! What a privilege!

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But then, when this city takes up a big part of my heart, it is so heartbreaking when it goes through its deep struggles. Like, when last week I was touring Har Bental on the Golan and all of a sudden got the news that another terrorist attack happened in my beloved Jerusalem! It is like someone punches you in the stomach! It is like someone wants to take away your hope for a future! But, don’t you worry, – we are not going to let them! We have a hope and a future here, – and we know it! Life in Israel teaches you to grow stronger through those moments. We learn to stand together, because that is certainly the way we best can fight the powers of destruction that come against us. Most of all we experience our dependency on the God of Israel! He has brought us this far, – He will bring us through this too!

Here I sit in my own peaceful livingroom, candles lit, hot cider in cup, slippered feet on the coffee table. And I think of – and pray for – the families who have been hit by the recent waves of terror! I pray for the protection of my beloved city and my beloved country! And I am clinging to God’s faithful promises of a future and a hope, – in spite of everything!

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!

 

 

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! 

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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!

 

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??

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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:

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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!!