The sound of the siren

It seemed almost surreal to turn my mind from the horror of the murders to the joy and happiness of a new grandchild.

mercaz medics 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
mercaz medics 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Whenever we used to hear the sound of ambulance sirens going by our house in Ramot, my children always instinctively said, "I hope it's someone on their way to hospital to have a baby." Unfortunately, over the years that hasn't always been the case. Terror attacks in Jerusalem were for several years quite frequent and the sound of ambulances rushing from all corners of the city, converging on the epicenter of the attack, became all too frequent and horrible. Many neighborhoods around Jerusalem have an ambulance and a volunteer driver to save time should someone in the area need emergency help. But when terrorists strike, they are all scrambled and from every corner of the city you can hear the ominous wailing sound of the ingathering sirens. But the night of Thursday, March 6 was slightly different. While terror once again struck Jerusalem and eight young boys studying our holy texts were gunned down at their desks at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, my daughter, in her ninth month of pregnancy with her fourth child, started to have contractions. We were all glued to the news broadcasts, watching in horror the footage and pictures that emerged from the bloodbath in the yeshiva. Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is one of the largest yeshivot in the country, with several hundred young pupils and older students. It would be a rare family in the religious community who didn't have a relative, or at least know someone, studying there. As we waited, listening in fear for the regular updates of dead and wounded, we were too scared to call any student's family, knowing what heart-wrenching terror they themselves would be going through until they heard that their child was safe. When my daughter suddenly called to ask if her younger sister could babysit her other children while she went to hospital, my mind was having difficulty processing what she was telling me. It seemed almost surreal to turn my mind from the horror of the murders to the joy and happiness of a new grandchild. Just before her call I had been reciting tehilim for the safety of the boys and the recovery of the wounded. Now as my daughter and her husband sped off to the hospital - in a taxi, not an ambulance, as the latter were all in use - I turned my thoughts to praying for a safe and quick delivery of a healthy grandchild. At 5:30 a.m. the next morning, as the names of the eight young holy neshamot (victims) were being released, we were blessed with a new granddaughter. My daughter and son-in-law named her Miriam, after my mother-in-law, who had recently passed away. That day the country was in deep mourning as the bodies of eight innocent young boys were laid to rest. We went to visit our daughter and her new baby in the hospital and when we left her, we went to the orthopedic ward to visit our neighbor's son who had injured his back jumping from an upstairs window in the yeshiva to save his life. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone of our wonderful news, apart from our immediate family. Even when I told friends a few days later, many commented: "Oh that was the day when all those young boys were killed," almost making me feel guilty for having something to celebrate on such a tragic day. Miriam's birthday will always be a day of national mourning, but our prayer now is that she grow up in peace and security, and the only ambulance sirens she hear be for women on their way to hospital to give birth.