The Afternoon Yoel Disappeared

The Afternoon Yoel Disappeared

Yesterday at 2:30 PM I was sitting in the playground spreading cottage cheese on rice cakes when the mother of Yoel’s best friend called to inform me that my 8-year-old son had disappeared.

Yoel had finished school at 1 PM and had gone to his best friend’s house nearby to play until a school activity at 5 PM.

But then Yoel, the mother told me, and his friend and another classmate had gone to play hide and seek outside. And an hour later, they still couldn’t find Yoel. The mother and the two boys had walked all around yelling “Yoel! Yoel!” but he had disappeared without a trace.

By nature, I am the braced-for-doom type, but I work really hard not to be. I also learned that positive thinking can actually influence reality. I don’t fully believe this, but I know that at the very least, positive thinking can’t hurt. So I envisioned how at 2:35 the mother would call again informing me that Yoel had knocked on their door laughing with pride at his incredible hiding spot which had eluded them all.

But the phone only rang again at around 2:50 PM. The mother and the boys had walked to the school and all around and still could not find Yoel.

I started walking home, and I even forgot about Yoel for a while. I was sure very soon he would come out of his hiding place and come back to his friend’s house laughing was pride.

Also, this was not the first time a child of mine has disappeared for a short period of time, and in the past there’s always been some sort of logical explanation—severe traffic jams or bus cancellations or suspicious objects which delay an arrival home by an hour or more.

But as an hour spread into two, I realized that we were heading into unknown territory. The mother urged me to call the police to inform them that my child was missing. I called Josh to tell him what was going on, and he agreed we should call the police, and he sped off with our 13-year-old, Maayan, to Har Nof search look for Yoel.

I told the other kids what was going on and read some Psalms and called some of Yoel’s classmates to check if any of them had seen him and then lay down and closed my eyes. If we didn’t find Yoel any time soon I would have a long night ahead of me.

I tried doing my positive thinking tricks: I would look at my watch and imagine that at 3:45 the mother would call with good news. But then 3:45 passed….And my braced-for-doom scenarios took over. I remembered the events of last summer—and envisioned myself and my family starring in a different kind of nightmare that would capture the attention of the Jewish world. Tearful press conferences, hundreds of people searching with flashlights through Har Nof and the Jerusalem Forest. Maybe Yoel had gotten locked inside a storage room or fallen into a pit and was calling out for help?

Every minute stretched on and on. What if night fell, and we still hadn’t found him?

And then at 4:25, Josh called to tell me Maayan had found Yoel.

Yoel, it turned out, had gotten angry with his friends and went back to the school to wait for the activity to start at 5 PM.

My nightmare hadn’t even lasted 2 hours…But it was still a wild feeling. For all that fear and near-panic to exit my body in one fell swoop like that.

It sort of felt like I’d had electro-shock treatment. But not for clinical depression…

Electro-shock treatment for complacency.

I am blessed with so much abundance in my life.

My children.
My husband.
My healthy kidney and liver and eyes and heart.
My parents.
My home.
Food on my table. Clean water in my glass.

And my Yoel. My Yoel. Safe and sound. Healthy and whole.


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Mommy Peptalk: When Things Need to Change
A Mother's Badge of Honor
Israeli Professor Calms Students' Babies


  1. Wow.. That relief must have felt so amazing. I am so impressed with your ability to tap into the positive thinking when I’m sure it must have been so incredibly difficult to shut out the fears and worst case scenarios in your head. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so happy everything was ok! BH!

  2. Wow. I had a similar situation this past Shabbat. I visualized my son cheerfully telling us where he had been and why, with a logical little boy explanation. However, as my fears surfaced I tried to focus on “my next step in avodat Hashem” (thank you Rabbi Nivin!) which helped me cope with the situation and not give in to worry and anger (which would have created more problems) but rather think logically. B”H, he was right next door the whole time!

  3. So scary! BH he is ok

  4. So curious what did you say to your son for not telling the parents he left.

    • JewishMom

      josh had him call his friend and apologize for leaving without telling anyone. And the friend apologized for not being nice. By the next day at school they were best friends again.

      a lesson we can learn from this– inviting two friends over is often trouble. When three kids play together, often one gets left out…

  5. Request permission to reprint in N’shei Chabad Newsletter. I love how the event made you appreciate all that you do have, instead of making you angry, upset, bitter…

  6. chasdei hashem!! he was safe! and kol hakovod that you were able to implement

    your learning techniques! It must have been very scary!

  7. B”H he was safe. So glad to hear it ended well. I can picture your angst and then relief and overall gratitude!

  8. Baruch HaShem
    So happy to hear
    How scary!!!
    It’s happened to me a few times that I couldn’t find a child but i did not react so calmly
    It felt like my whole world was about to fall apart.
    You have such admirable emunah!

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