The week before we left, we were in Tel Aviv when the rockets started to rain down on Israel. (You can read more about that experience here CLICK ME.) I fell apart. Every time a siren went off my hands shook as I stood in the stairwell waiting to hear the booms that filled the air around us. I mentally could not handle the possibility that rockets could be overhead any time of the day or night. I didn't want to shower. I didn't want to go to sleep. When there were only seconds to get my family into the stairwell, I did not want to have shampoo in my eyes. Every night I would put my children to sleep and send a little prayer that their sleep would be uninterrupted. Thankfully the sirens did not go off between midnight and 7am. Two mornings my children were forced into the stairwell, naked and rubbing sleep from their eyes. For hours after I walked in a daze unable to shake the fear flooding my system. I looked around me in awe at the Israelis going about their lives unfazed.
Over breakfast either Wednesday or Thursday morning my husband asked me if I wanted to go home. The words bubbled out of my mouth and before I could stop myself I yelled, "yes" and he was on the phone with Delta in minutes. We booked our flight for three weeks earlier than our original plan. Friday we were back in Jerusalem hosting my family for Shabbat. Sunday and Monday we spent the time packing and saying goodbye to dear friends. Tuesday we were on a plane flying back to the States.
On our flight home I watched my children sleep, felt the rocking motion of the plane and calmed myself whenever we hit turbulence. I tried not to think about the nagging feeling we left Israel when she needed us most. In the past week as we have worked very hard to rebuild our lives in the States, I have been unable to focus. My heart is with Israel. Every life, every soldier, every son that dies in Gaza breaks my heart. I feel like a sell out. Israel is the Jewish land. It's the only land a Jew can live a Jewish life without fearing prosecution. Currently the French Jews are immigrating to Israel in the thousands to escape Muslim persecution and riots happening in their neighborhoods. When France became unsafe, Israel is all they had left. What happens if the whole world becomes unsafe to be a Jew? What happens if history repeats itself? All we have left is Israel. Israel is the Jewish homeland. All religions and races and cultures are welcome but it is the land that welcomes my people with open arms.
I have become obsessed with reading any news that pertains to Israel. In between appointments with schools and property managers I check my facebook to see how the war in Israel is progressing. I worry about our young soldiers who have to fight in Gaza, who are forced to kill children because they must protect themselves. I worry what that will do for their mental well being. I worry what will happen to Israel after this operation. I worry how they will find everlasting peace. I want peace for Israel.
I miss my friends. I made a few soul friends I will have in my heart forever. I will never forget the friends who helped me pack, who helped me keep it together emotionally as I said goodbye to Israel three weeks before I was ready to leave. The last few days walking in Jerusalem were bittersweet. The shuk, my constant friend, would be a distant dream living in my memory. The beautiful Jerusalem stone would have to wait until I flew back to Israel. I miss the smell of Jerusalem. I miss the magic, the energy that thickens Jerusalem's air. I miss the baked goods found at every corner. I miss the cats roaming the streets. I miss walking to the Kotel. I miss Mekimi clothing store. I miss living in a land where God is number one.
In exile finding God is a process of ripping the curtains. Every day I need to tear at the fog until I can touch God's hand again. God is here but the connection is softer, the wifi is weaker.
And so, I feel guilty. I feel weak. I feel like a coward. How could I leave Israel when she needed me most? When she is most in trouble?