Jewish Journal

Just Two Weeks Ago

by Susan Esther Barnes

July 30, 2014 | 1:30 am

Alissa in a tree, studying Torah. Photo by Susan Esther Barnes.

I have never published a piece written by someone else on my blog, but my friend Alissa Ralston sent this to me, and I thought it deserved a wider audience. Below. With her permission, are her words. They speak for themselves.


Just over two weeks ago I was in my daughter’s Kiryot Ono apartment getting ready to go down to the park with the children.  It is just too hot to play outside in the middle of the day in the summer.  It was the last day of my two week visit to see the family.

An hour so later we joined other families at a nearby playground.  The sounds of sirens and rockets exploding after Iron Dome interceptions had already become routine.  All eyes look towards the sky after an explosion to find the cloud-like puffs of smoke indicating another group of rockets was    successfully destroyed.   Smart phones pointed upwards to take photos and people discussed the approximate location of the attempted strike.  The children continued playing and the adults resumed pushing swings and normal conversations.

My grandchildren, ages two and six, know to proceed to the safe room or go with adults to the nearest shelter as soon as sirens go off.  They had already adjusted to sleeping in the secure room of their 4th floor apartment.  Adar (age 6) now has a special LED light from Grandma to keep with him so he will be sure to be able to see in case the single light in the room goes out or there is no power.

Throughout the weeks parents went to work and about their daily business.  Daily routines continued.  Mila (age 2) went to day care.  Adar went to sports camp every day.  They did, however, cancel the scheduled trips to the local pool due to inadequate security.  A day of in house water play was substituted and the kids loved it.  The local mall was crowded in the morning with pre Shabbat shoppers.  Some businesses had been affected due to all the reserves being called up to duty, but daily life in town continues.  The only television allowed when the children are awake is children’s programming and, if a news alert comes on, the off button is hit and attention is diverted to something else.  They only way news enters the house is via smart phones and computers that these young children are not able to read.  Adar is aware of the rockets, but feels protected and doesn’t show any concern.

While most of Kiryot Ono is clearly Jewish ( a blend of secular and observant),  Arab young people work side-by-side with other Israeli teens in the local McDonalds and Druze women cook up yummy specialties in the mall. There aren’t many Arab students at my grandson’s public school, but there are a few.   The media rarely talks about the million plus Arab Israelis or those agencies working to improve coexistence. 

Good-bye hugs and kisses the next day were without the usual tears.  Leaving is usually so emotional for us, but this parting was quiet and matter-of-fact.  We are all too aware of the unknown.   It was Shabbat and the airport was quiet.  

The tinderbox has been growing for years and was ripe to explode.  Israelis have always lived with this knowledge.   The only way the society is able to function is to somehow segment these concerns and go on with daily life while continuing to hope, wish, work for and pray for peace.  At the same time, of course, supporting the IDF in defending the country with sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, other relatives, friends and, of course, themselves.  I grew up in the Vietnam War era and was so grateful my own sons grew up without concern of a military draft.  My daughter, however, did serve in the IDF.  I pray my grandchildren will only do so with civil service in a future of peace.
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Susan Esther Barnes is a religious Reform Jew who can regularly be seen greeting people at her synagogue before services. She is a founding member of her synagogue’s chevra...

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