Normally September 1 rolls round with a sigh of relief. The summer vacation is long and the kids have had more than enough of idling around and sleeping the morning away. It's time to get back into a regular routine. But this year I want to keep them back at home. I long to give them another week or two of relaxation. This year the stresses and fears of the summer were far worse than anything they experienced during a year of studying and exams. And we don't even live in the North. This was the summer when instead of going on vacation we opened our home to our fellow Israelis fleeing the dank, dark miserable bomb shelters of the North. Our teenage daughters spent their time entertaining strange children and calming hysterical mothers. When one deeply distressed visiting four-year-old decided to force her body through the window bars on the second floor, they called the fire department to come and extricate her. Their nights were spent not chatting and meeting with friends but going off in the middle of the night in search of emergency medication for a heart patient after surgery who practically collapsed coming up the stairs to our apartment. After a missile landed next to their apartment in Haifa, they had just upped and fled and arrived at our home, not thinking twice about recent surgery or her urgently needed medication. The stress on her heart of living under fire had to be worse than any other aggravation. Sensing that we had our hands full, many other local teenagers came to offer babysitting help and entertainment. These were the kids who normally wile away two months of hot, sunny summer living There were no long lie-ins this year. As families came and went, the girls tidied up rooms, changed bed linen, shopped. And when they weren't helping me with our influx of visitors, my daughters were making up packages of urgently needed supplies for beleaguered families in the North. When large groups of families set up home in local schools, we were all out trying to raise money to help feed them and provide a bit of light relief. And if maybe there was a spare minute or two, it was spent listening to, watching and reading news updates. Prayers were said constantly for the kidnapped and fighting soldiers. This increased when our son, who had received his emergency call-up at the beginning of the war, only to sit around for weeks in various bases, was finally sent into Lebanon. So now it's over for the time being. Yes, we were an exceptionally fortunate family. Our son arrived home safe and sound but lost many of his comrades. Our home is intact, and we never had to run for cover from even one missile. But still, even for those of us in the center of the country, this was not a summer vacation.