Holy ground

Today I drove from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva for work, and chose the most direct route; – the way of the patriarchs. It was absolutely beautiful! The hills of Judea, terraced and covered with vineyards and olive-groves with blossoming almond trees randomly dotted in between.

Terraced Judean hills

Terraced Judean hills

And there was something even deeper than this beauty, – the history of this part of the earth is so amazing, the stones are just about speaking to us. On these hills, the patriarchs walked! These were the views they saw. For example Abraham walked there with Isaac when they walked to Mt. Moriah, and Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son. To think of what has happened here, the promises given, the foundations being laid!

This is holy ground.

And we are living the continuation in our generation. The reason for the trip to Beer Sheva was that I was meeting up with four different immigrant families, to help them in the process of settling in the land of their inheritance. So it is continuing. Abraham was the first Jewish immigrant, – and now, thousands of years later, they are still coming. God is returning His people and planting them here. And we get to be a part of it!

Abraham's well

Abraham’s well in Beer Sheva

Those are deep experiences, – connecting points between ancient history and our lives today, – building on the promises of old, with a strong hope for a glorious future!

What a blessed life! 

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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.

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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!

 

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!

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.

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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!!

 

Another trip-day.

I have had another one of my work related trip days. Today the trip went to Haifa, where I met seven families from different communities in the north.

Haifa Mall

I have actually been feeling a bit “under the weather” for the last few days, so if it was not for the fact that I had already made these appointments, I probably would have just stayed home and laid low today. Anyway, it all worked out, and there were even enjoyable moments!

coffee

I had a good time in the car driving through the Land of Israel. I listened to a CD I love, but that I for some reason had not listened to for a while. One of the songs is about us coming back to Eretz Yisrael, and about the holiness of the Land. Listening to this, while looking at the views of the beautiful hills of Samaria, the sun reflecting on the Mediterranean, cities built on hilltops, fruit-trees and fields of agriculture, – it was just perfect! (I even sang out loud, with my voice which is now very influenced by the fact that I have a bad cold… Good thing I was alone in the car!)

coffee

My time in Haifa started with a cup of mint tea and ended with a cup of vanilla flavored coffee, – so yeah, not all bad. (The shop we use there, has some really nice people who called in the morning to find out when I was coming, and when they heard I wasn’t feeling well, they immediately promised me a cup of tea upon arrival!) The seven families each received their needed item, be it a refrigerator, a washing machine or a cookings stove, – and all left very thankful. And I again felt uplifted by the fact that I get to be a part of such a meaningful thing as helping the people who God has brought back, settle in their homeland! What a blessing!

coffee with a dear friend

The cup of coffee I had with a dear friend who is a Jerusalemite at heart but for the time being lives in Haifa. It is always a treat to get together with her, and was definitely one of the bright points of my trip today.

Fulfilled prophecies and trip to the beach…

One of my jobs quite regularly sends me on trips around the country, where I meet with immigrants and assist them in practical ways in their process of settling in their homeland. Today was one of those days, and I was in the coastal town of Ashdod and met with three families in that area.

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I find this both meaningful and rewarding, – because I strongly believe in it! I so believe in the building of a Jewish homeland, – and the return of the Jewish people is a central part of that! This was prophesied thousands of years ago, – God would bring His people back home from all the corners of the earth. It is happening now in our days! And I get to have first row seats in watching it happening! Not only that, – I get to take part in it! Exciting stuff!!

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A good friend here in Jerusalem came with me on my trip today, – which made the whole day even better! We were going to get together for coffee, and just spontaneously decided to have that coffee in Ashdod!

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This friend is also very much on fire for Israel and the Jewish people returning from exile, so she has for a long time been talking about coming on one of those trips.

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A fringe benefit is of course the trip in itself. As much as we love Jerusalem, it is nice to from time to time get out and breath some different air. We both love everything about the sea, – the sight, the air, the sound, the smell, the feel of it!! So this is us having a good time at the beach after being done with the work-related part of our trip. 🙂

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Inspired moments.

Today I was inspired by a few words that stood out to me from a song by Ein Prat, Fountainheads. They were singing about living in the Land of Israel. And listen to this:

“I build my future, with ancient glory…” 

This is something that really excites me about living here. We are connected to the ancient past. At the same time as we are building a future. And somehow it is all interconnected! The Past. The Future. The Present, – which we get to take part in, leave our little fingerprint on. Something amazing started here thousands of years ago. It is continuing today, where we happen to be some of the players. And it keeps going on, – it has promises of a future and a hope!

A view of Jerusalem on one of my recent runs.

A view of Jerusalem on one of my recent runs.

While I am at it, I might as well share something that inspired me yesterday too. That was a verse from Isaiah 12,6.

״צהלי ורני יושבת ציון כי גדול בקרבך קדוש ישראל״

 “Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!” 

We can get so busy with the itty-bitty challenges of every day life, that we loose sight of the huge blessings we live in constantly! Hello! I am an inhabitant of Zion!!! How great is that?! I want to cry out and shout, – for GREAT is the Holy One of Israel in our midst!! Halleluyah!