This wasn’t the article. The other one, the fun one, was written and nearly submitted just before the beginning of Sukkot. You know the kind of article—the one that chortled about my visit to America for the holidays, hinting at a tongue-in-cheek resolve not to shop in the wonderful stores, the unfamiliar road etiquette, etc.
You know. That kind of article. It only needed one more proofread after the Havdalah service that ushers out the Sabbath, before I’d press the button marked “Send.”
“Send” didn’t happen because while I was lighting my shabbos candles in Silver Spring, Maryland, and praying in a beautiful suburban synagogue, relishing the aromas of cholent and kugel, our brothers and sisters in the south of Israel were being summarily mowed down and butchered while at parties, prayers, dinners and beds. There is no need for me to further describe the documented atrocities; this magazine might, indeed, remain on a coffee table for a day/a week/enough time for the faint of heart to browse the horrific details.
I reached my husband and children in Jerusalem, Bet El, Tel Aviv and Ramat Bet Shemesh. Their respective conditions ranged from numb to number and it was hard for me to compute the collective picture of running in and out of bomb-shelters, fathers still wrapped in prayer shawls as they jumped into cars to drive their holy soldier sons and daughters to bases, sobbing mothers tossing hastily assembled parcels of uneaten holiday food into open windows of departing vehicles.
I had to get back. The thought of remaining in America in the name of safety was not a blip on my radar screen, despite the urging of some well-meaning individuals.
On Sunday morning, Shmini Atzeret in the Diaspora, my son called from Israel to inform me that his reserve unit had been called up. He sounded fine and clear and told me not to worry, equivalent to being told not to breathe.
My upcoming flight was scheduled for Monday afternoon and my husband assured me that, assuming highways were open, he’d be at Ben Gurion to escort me home. Both of us needed to be held.
The first inkling that getting home wasn’t going to be as simple as originally planned occurred while I was waiting for the car-service to take me to Dulles. I received an email that the final leg of my return flight, Rome to Tel Aviv, was canceled. Not delayed, canceled. In a panic, I called a booking service that assured me that flying from Rome to Istanbul would get me to Israel only a few hours after the original time. Good. I flew to Rome and napped on the terminal floor for a few hours. I went to Turkey while secretly trying to identify fellow Israelis. Without success, I returned to Rome.
At the time of this writing, nearly a week after attempting to return home, I’ve yet to reach Israel. Each flight was postponed until canceled and kosher-eating me has spent days eating boxed cashews and airport fruit salad while essaying a return. When my husband heard that I was going to follow someone’s advice and try to get home via Casablanca, he said, “No. Get back to America. You’ll start again after shabbos. You don’t want to be shabbos in Morocco.” Duh.
Back in Maryland, I’m waitlisted for two El Al flights but returning soldiers correctly have priority. Next priority painfully belongs to parents and siblings of the dead, maimed and missing.
About to light candles in my mother’s senior housing complex for the third time in as many weeks, my prayers are aimed at Heaven, imploring upon G-d to watch over my beloved people, my blessed country, my precious son who is at the Gaza border and for the welfare of Jews everywhere who, again, are under siege and fighting, for our very existence.
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.