After the Hebrew months of Elul and Tishrei that are so full of meaning and
spiritual repair work on our souls, we enter the month of Heshvan.
feeling is strange. We move from one kind of atmosphere to another – from an
atmosphere of soulsearching to one of great joy. Suddenly, Heshvan (the month’s
original name is Marheshvan) arrives.
And why was this month called
Marheshvan? There are two reasons. One is that Heshvan is considered a month
that has a bitter taste (the Hebrew word mar means “bitter”): It has no
holidays, no festive days and, in fact, according to Jewish tradition, several
disastrous events occurred during this month. The second reason is that this is
the month when rain begins to fall in the Land of Israel. The word “mar” also
means “drop of water,” as it is written in the Bible: “Hen goyim ke-mar mi-dli
(Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket),” Isaiah (40:15).
original intention in writing these words was to express the idea that in
Marheshvan, we can now finally return to our usual routines – children could
resume the school year, our synagogue, Eshel Avraham, could begin our study
groups for adults, that men and women around southern Israel could resume their
usual routines. In Israel, as everyone knows, life goes back to normal “after
However, although the holiday season was, thank God,
tranquil, our normal routines did not return.
The residents of southern
Israel, especially Beersheba, returned to a harsh reality.
After the joy
of Gilad Schalit’s return to his home in Israel, there was a lot of talk in the
Israeli media about negotiations with the Palestinians, perhaps even with Hamas.
Unfortunately, as we have learned from our past experiences, whenever there is
progress, there are also fanatics bent on sabotaging any possibility of
conciliation or an easing of tensions.
As I write these lines, all the
schools in Beersheba have been shut for three days – nursery schools,
kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools. All the
pupils are at home.
No, this is not a mini-vacation. We are under
Let me tell you what it is like to live under siege. The first
problem is that although children are not in school, their parents are expected
to be at work. But somebody has to look after them. This is not a vacation
period. There are no summer camps. No sleepover camps. So, in most families, one
of the parents must ask for a day off from work in order to stay at home and
look after the children.
The second problem is actually leaving home.
Traveling in a vehicle suddenly becomes dangerous when threatened with missile
attacks. If the air raid sirens go off while you are traveling, you have several
alternatives, as the instructions issued by the IDF’s Home Front Command tell
The first alternative is to get out of the car and to take shelter in
a nearby apartment building. In theory, this is a good solution. In practice,
however, it is not such a good solution. We were on our way back on Sunday from
a series of meetings in Tel Aviv when the sirens shrieked. In extensive areas
near the entrance to Beersheba there are no apartment buildings.
second alternative is to get out of the vehicle and stretch yourself out on the
ground. The third alternative is to stay in the vehicle.
alternatives are problematic. It is no coincidence that all of the persons
injured and the person killed (in Ashkelon) in the recent rocket attacks were
traveling when the air raid sirens started to wail.
disruption of our normal routine is the heart of the matter. Yesterday, at 6:30
p.m., the sirens sounded in Beersheba but the Iron Dome anti-missile defense
system downed the Grad rocket that was fired at the city. A half-hour later, I
returned to my home. I was about to enter the apartment building when one of my
neighbors emerged in order start her daily jog – just as many of us
One of my neighbors saw her and called out, “Hey, are you crazy? Why
are you going out now to jog? It’s dangerous to go out now. What will you do if
there is another air raid siren? And what if a missile falls? What will you do?
Run a little faster?” The missiles are having an impact on more than just on our
day-to-day activities. They are also having an impact on the basic elements of
our lives. In effect, we are living in a constant state of tension, 24 hours a
day, a state of passive tension. Every noise sounds like an air raid siren,
making us run to seek shelter. Then, when everything is over, we keep hearing
the air raid siren. It is as if we are actually seeking the sound of the air
This is not paranoia; this is survival. You have only one
minute to get to an air raid shelter or some suitable alternative; you have no
time to waste checking whether this is really an air raid siren or whether your
imagination is playing tricks on you.
It’s always good to find a bomb
shelter; at least this is a place where you can feel safe. The sad fact is that
we have still not been able to raise all the funds needed for the construction
of an air raid siren for the children attending the nursery schools in our
congregation, Eshel Avraham. We pray each and every day that there will be no
surprises in the middle of the school day and that no missiles will fall, God
forbid, on Beersheba.
Our children have no place where they can really
So we pray each and every day for a normal routine instead of
the present situation. A life that is not routine can sometimes be a blessing.
In our present reality, it is a curse.
“May He who makes peace in the
heavens make peace for us and for all Israel and for all the world’s
inhabitants. And let us say ‘Amen.’” The writer is rabbi of Eshel Avraham
Congregation in Beersheba and president of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.