Welcome To Temple Beth El!
Noa Hareli Baruch – Israel
Everyone around me is asleep but I am completely awake. I have been awake since October 7th. I am walking around as if I have an internal auto pilot button. I find myself staring through the wall for hours. It feels like every minute is a lifetime. As same as most people, or should I dare to say most mothers, (you know how Jewish mothers can be…), my thoughts are literally tearing me apart.
On October 7th, Saturday morning, we woke up at 6.20 A.M to the sound of sirens. We got up fast and took our confused girls to the safe room. Why confused you ask? It’s probably because none of us saw it coming. From past experiences, we knew that within a few minutes from the first sirens it would be over – Not this time. Absurdly, in Israel, we call these moments “drops” – Sadly this has become the norm for us as it happens so regularly. Occasionally, when Gaza Strip terrorists, who are affiliated to any one of the many terrorist groups, (and there are plenty of them), gets upset with something, as if they were toddlers who couldn’t get their parents attention, we get bombed. This time, it was different. There were many sirens. One after the other. We sat in a safe room for about 3.5 hours straight. No water, no food, without going to the bathroom, scared, confused, and starting to understand that the safety of our family and friends, as well as our safety are in critical danger. NOTHING was the same, nor will be ever again.
When the massacres hit “Kibutz Be’eri”, we desperately tried reaching out to our family who live there. Throughout the day, news anchors put efforts in broadcasting people from around the Gaza strip area, (I prefer the term Israel surrounding area), in hopes of listeners to send help their way by providing insight into where they were so they could be located, along with knowing how distress the situation was. At first, it was mainly “we are locked in our homes”, “the power is out”, “there are shootings”, “we are scared” but it was quickly escalated to “they are inside our home”, “they are burning us alive”, “my father was kidnapped”, “save us! Send help! Call someone!!!” and then, silence. The sound of silence is the worst and its volume can be extremely loud. So many people, kids, babies, elderly, man, women were attacked, abused, kidnapped, and underwent a torture mask by the bare hands of unhuman terrorists, which I’d rather spare you from knowing such atrocities, because once you hear the firsthand accounts, once you see the unedited graphic videos, and see the physical and emotional scars left on all the innocent souls, well you’ll never be the same person you were before.
As if the horrors that came upon us on October 7th were not enough for one lifetime, we had to live through the longest two weeks, with no knowledge of where or what happened to our cousins who lived in “Kibbutz Be’eri”. We searched high and low, talked to anyone who would listen, provided crucial information and D.N.A samples, but eventually ended up heartbroken, once we discovered that part of my family was brutally murdered that day by those despicable murderers. I’ve lost both of my cousins, Ze’ev and Zehava Haker, may their memory be blessed, who were, (I still can’t believe I’m writing in the past tense), the most caring, giving and human loving people that I’ve ever known, just for having the nerve to be Jews. A second Holocaust. Unbelievable, right? 2023. Who would have imagined…
Over the past month, I’ve suffered countless panic attacks, (lost counting at some point), very countable hours of sleep, (about 2.5 in total every night), used 36 boxes of tissue paper, received tons of heartwarming hugs and heard millions of optimistic heroic stories. I’ve lost 2 family members, 3 of my friends were injured, thousands of my closest friends’ relatives were injured, murdered or kidnapped, and also a few of my brown hairs, which turned white from being so concerned.
The pain of this realization is excruciating.
For how long will this stomach punch continue hitting our cores? Apparently, for the same amount of time it will take to heal from bomb fragments within the body, and shattered souls, to rebuild everything that was brutally destroyed and to piece back together the parts of our broken hearts.
But there is a giant spot of light shining at me, at us, as Jews and Israelis. In all of that darkness, we got to discover, once again, how special we are and what a great force we have as we unite. It is clearer to me more than ever that I am privileged. I am privileged. I have a home. I can wake up every morning, look out at the sun, breathe fresh air, kiss my husband, my girls, my family, my friends. I AM ALIVE. Those things, that were always taken for granted should not and will not be taken for granted ever again. Look at the sun…breathe…Crazy, right?! How on earth is this not obvious? HOW?!?
Our unity in and out of Israel. That’s what helps us continue in this fight. The fight to live. It matters. It counts. Every bit of it.
My Rochesterian family, and my Beth El family, is giving me and my surrounding so much strength. From the moment they’ve heard about those horrors, they have surrounded me with so much love and care, they’ve been calling, texting, posting online, letting me know that they are here for me, for us, stand with us. ONE OF US. Home is where your heart is. It’s true. It’s not a cliché. The fact that I know I have a family outside of Israel as well, a home away from home, who supports me, cares for me, prays for me, means the world and not just for me. It means the world to all the Israeli people. Thank you for being our ambassadors, our voice outside of Israel. Fighting our fight to spread the truth out to the world.
Those hard days, they will get better. they just have to!
I keep asking myself, what can we do with this huge hole in our hearts? We must fill it. Fill it with pictures, memories, stories, heroes, people who must be remembered and acknowledged. We believe. We must make a promise to tell their stories and spread the light they have granted us or left behind, to the world.
We have to keep thinking about the kidnapped babies, toddlers, children, moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends, who are still there and fight in order to bring them HOME.
we know and must shout it out loud, now more than ever –