From Sderot to Har Nof
Last week, my 9-year-old Moriah came home with a special note on her weekly review sheet from school. After the regular run down of what the girls had learned that week in math and science and Torah classes, the teacher added an additional note about how the school was helping the girls process and cope following the Har Nof massacre, which had taken place just a few blocks up the hill. And then Moriah’s teacher concluded with the following:
“PS- The girls received letters of support and encouragement this week from a class of 4th grade girls from Sderot.”
Tears popped into my eyes when I read that, and I was reminded of two of the highest, sweetest moments from my two decades spent in the Holy Land…
Between 2000 and 2005 we lived in fear, as buses, cafes, and streets were bombed on a weekly and even daily basis. It was a terrible time to live in Israel, and especially in the downtown Jerusalem neighborhood I call home. Over those years, from my own living room, I could hear bombings on buses, on Ben Yehuda, on Jaffa Street, in the Market. Without ever discussing it, Josh and I never took the kids anywhere together. Just in case.
And I remember the first time in 2005 that I saw crowds of tourists returning to Ben Yehuda street, and I realized that weeks had passed since there had been a bombing. The end of the Intifada had finally come. And I remember around that time walking by somebody on the street next to my home. I don’t remember if that person was religious or secular, or even male or female. I just remember the feeling that that person and I had gone through this Intifada together. I felt how we had pulled through some of the toughest years in Israel’s history. And it had been terrifying and blood-drenched and awful. But we hadn’t left Israel. And we were here. And we had survived—together.
The second moment happened just a few weeks ago.
3 years ago, we Nachlaot parents found out that over 80 neighborhood kids had been molested and severely physically and emotionally abused by a group of child molesters living here. Many parents made complaints with the police, and then the local molesters started harassing and threatening the parents who dared to take legal action against them. This was all on top of the hell that these parents were already living through, realizing the extent of the damage done to their beloved children by this very evil and/or sick group of predators, and trying their best to help them heal.
And then a few weeks ago, a mother whose children had been molested in the case told me as we walked our kids home from nursery school that one of the worst predators involved in the case, Zalman Cohen, had finally been sentenced to 9 years in prison (another molester involved in the case, Binyamin Satz, had already been sentenced to 15 years). As we continued walking, we were joined by several other mothers whose kids had been molested in the neighborhood case, and they all expressed their joy about the sentencing.
For these mothers, the struggle is not over. But experiencing this long-awaited taste of justice among these mothers after so many years was incredibly sweet.
The whole experience of these three years has been terrifying and nightmarish and awful for the parents involved in the case. But these mothers’ families have been healing and have grown so much stronger. And they have survived—together.
And that was how I felt when I read that girls from Sderot had sent letters to my daughter’s class.
I felt how we Jews have been through so much this year. From a summer spent in bomb shelters. To the recent massacre in Har Nof.
But these tests only make us stronger. And bring us closer together.
As we survived and will continue to survive—together.