On Tuesday night as four Jews were murdered by Arab terrorists near Beit Haggai, not far away, I was on stage in Gush Etzion - singing, dancing and rehearsing for the newest production of the Raise Your Spirits community theater company - JUDGE, the Song of Devorah.
We entered our theater as on any other night, tired after a long day of work and errands, but ready to give our all in rehearsal. The air was cooling down outside and everyone was excited that the new school year was dawning. Who would have known that the night would bring tragedy?
Whispers of "pigua", terror attack, floated through the hall half way through rehearsal (from a quick call home or SMS from a friend), but without real details, the incident was only a vague cloud and we continued on.
The rehearsal on our stage had been fun and spirited, but in the outside listening-to-the-radio world, the mood was changing to sad, somber and angry.
When I came home, I read the net, and then I also knew about the horrific attack that had just taken place.
In the morning, I awoke early to meet my daughter-in-law in Jerusalem and then take the bus with her to visit my grandchildren. I was hurrying to get ready when the phone rang. My friend called to give me the names of the victims, HY"D, and talk about the "Plan" for showing support for the mourners. All Israel mourns terror victims, but the moment that a victim is given a name is the worst moment. You know him. Your know her family. You once met them. Your child was in their child's class. Now, the victim is a real person.
Efrat/Gush Etzion has a sad tradition (i.e. - the Plan - probably other communities do this as well, but I never asked). Whenever the funeral of a terror victim passes on the way to a Jerusalem burial, hundreds of community members go out on to the road with tehillim (books of psalms) and Israeli flags to pay their respects to the family of the fallen Jews.
The Plan is to line the road, sometimes both east and west sides, and stand for what could be hours, waiting for the funeral to pass. (The photos here are from past funerals.)
My friend and I were going to post messages to our local list, so that everyone would be ready when the funeral procession was coming. And then I remembered, I was going to Jerusalem.
They'd have to find someone else to help. I felt conflicted. I felt my national place was with my town on the road. I felt my personal place was with my family.
In Gush Etzion, my friends would be looking for their flags and sun hats, and filling their water bottles. I was racing around for my black sneakers and small change for the bus.
The day progressed. I thought of my friends lining the road, as I walked down the steps to my granddaughters' gan (preschool). I hoped that a large crowd had gathered in Gush Etzion. I wished I had remembered to call my friends to tell that I couldn't be with them, but that I'd be thinking of them.
While Efratians were reciting psalms for the victims and their families, I was taking the sand out of my preschoolers' socks. I tried to stay in the moment, tickle my grandbaby's toes, nuzzle her neck as I put her in for a nap, but it was hard to stop thinking of the lines of Jews standing on Route 60, waiting, waiting.
Lying next to them in bed, I sang my part in our new show. They laughed when I sang, "Is his bite weaker than his barkkkk?" And we all barked a few times before the baby fell asleep.
As the cars finally passed Efrat's main junction, I was far away teaching my five-year-old granddaughter how to play tic tac toe. I smiled and chuckled, "You're so good at this," but I knew that some of my friends were crying.
We Jews in Israel sometimes have such intense lives, we need those, "I love you, Savta" moments, when nothing else matters and no one else exists, except for those sweet little people whose hugs are like the embrace of angels and whose kisses tickle like flower petals.
I grabbed up my granddaughters a few extra times. At the end of the day, I wanted to walk to the car holding hands the whole way. I needed the chizuk that those pudgy little fingers give.
I came home after my day of hugs and preschool songs, and gorgeous artwork (the teacher took a yogurt container, covered it and cut a hole, to make a tzedakah box) to catch up on my emails.
It seems the funeral procession wasn't as early as they thought. And they hadn't needed me after all. Many folks had been sending news back and forth. "The procession will pass Efrat at 1.. at 1:15... the procession stopped...the cars are coming. Get out to the road now!!" It must have been a very tense day for my friends.
Then I read two emails from my Raise Your Spirits theater company about terror attacks, and why the members of Raise Your Spirits carry on in the face of tragedy (but that is for another blog - remind me). I was very moved by their words. I briefly added to their emails, but my grandchildren's dirty clothes had ended up in my house, and I wanted to wash them before Shabbat.
Later, back at my desk, I scanned the net again. Oh no, there had just been another "peace talk" pigua - this one near Kochav Yaakov. It's a formula: "peace talks"= terror attacks. But I wasn't able to read more of the news, because one of my kids called with something that needed my attention. Could I please help him? Of course, I would help him. That's what mothers do. The national world had to take a back seat. The personal world was at the forefront again.
We Jews are interesting creatures. We have a turbulent national life that can also be gloomy or glorious, horrific or heroic. And we have a private life that can be quiet or chaotic, tear-filled or fun-filled.
That's the way it's been for thousands of years. It will never change. We are a people, but we are also people. We feel for the greater whole, but we also need our private selves and our private worlds, in order to recharge our batteries for the next national challenge.
We live in two worlds. It's not easy, but it's part of being a Jew.