Israelis are living in a parallel universe lately. For most, life is filled with the ordinary. We get up in the morning, get ourselves and our families organized for the day. We’ll sit at a computer or work in business, go for a walk with a friend, have lunch at a nearby restaurant, do the weekly shopping, or chat on the phone. It’s all so ordinary, so routine, so normal.
Except that this morning…like every morning for the last few few weeks…a rocket was fired at one of our towns and people went scurrying for cover, panicked that they wouldn’t reach safety in time. A thousand thoughts go through their minds. Where will it hit this time? Where is my husband…or my wife? Where is my mother…or my father…or my son…or my daughter? That’s what the people of Sderot are going through each time the Color Red warning goes off. Then there is a boom – loud if it is close by, or a dull thud if it is further in the distance. Either way, it now becomes a mad dash for the phone to check on loved ones, to tell others that this time they are safe. And through these moments of terror and worry, the rest of us are going about our lives and doing normal things.
It was like that this past summer as well. That time, it was all the people in the north who sat in bomb shelters while we continued to work, to visit with friends, and to do all those ordinary things that people must do to survive. And yet, a part of our consciousness was always focused to the north, and now to the people living within striking distance of Gaza. We know that they are in danger. We feel their fear and we worry for them. Like last summer, we are at a loss how we can help. The kassem rockets, like the katyushas last summer, are terror weapons. They are not targeted to a specific area, they have no guidance system. It is simply a matter of pointing and shooting. The success almost doesn’t matter because in the seconds it takes before impact, the purpose, that of terrifying our civilian population, is accomplished.
Last summer, during the war, hundreds of thousands of people relocated and stayed with friends and family. So too, thousands of residents from the danger area have relocated in this latest crisis. At the same time, many choose to stay. For those that stay, maintaining a business is very difficult and sometimes dangerous. Like last summer, an effort is being made to help, at least financially, those who remain behind.
This past Shabbat, an effort was made throughout the country to raise money to purchase challot, the braided sweet bread eaten on the Sabbath, from a bakery in Sderot. Money was collected, but because of the precarious situation, it was never able to reach Sderot and it will be attempted again this coming weekend. In the meantime, a friend called me with the suggestion that all the money that was collected still be given to the Sderot community and a new effort to collect more money from individual families for their weekly challah be started again. This way, at least financially, we are still able to help the people of Sderot.
This coming Shabbat, hopefully hundreds and thousands of Israelis will order challah from Sderot and hopefully this week, even before the Sabbath arrives, the Israeli government will find a way to ensure that our efforts are not wasted. But even more so, we hope the Israeli government will finally fulfill its reason for existing – to protect the people of Israel. They failed last summer, that is clear to all. And, they are failing now, as each rocket hits and people have 15 seconds to run to safety.
This coming Shabbat is a test for all – to those not living in the danger zone – please make the effort to find a community representative who has organized this challah-purchasing effort (or coordinate it on your own).
To the Israeli government – please do something to ensure that this coming Shabbat, and all that follow, bring the people of Sderot and its surrounding communities security and safety.