My Neighbor, the Modern Heroine
This morning, on the way back from buying sufganiot (5 caramel, 3 jelly), I ran into my new next-door neighbor, Yael*, walking hand in hand with her 3-year-old daughter.
After a bit of Chanukah-vacation chit-chat I asked her, “Will your husband be coming home over Chanukah?”
“Maybe on Shabbat Chanukah. We’ll see, depends on the matsav, the security situation…”
Yael’s husband is a Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF, a battalion commander in one of the areas hardest hit by the current intifada. That means she and her 6 children only see him around one Shabbat a month, and only if the “situation” allows it. And at crazy times like these, the situation often doesn’t…
When I talk with Yael, I realize just how easy it is for me to separate myself from Am Yisrael.
It is so easy for me to lock my front door and not think too much about the fact that there was another terror attack yesterday and that today yet another victim is fighting for his life in an ICU somewhere.
But for Yael, there is no separation between the national and the personal. Yesterday a Jew was stabbed and today the person she loves most in the world, the father of her children, is risking his life to ensure that the Jewish people throughout the land of Israel will be safe.
Being married to a professional soldier requires sacrifices– some small, some not so small.
This past Friday I looked out my back window and saw Yael coming back from the supermarket with all 6 of her children, who got out of her minivan as she unloaded bags from the back of her car.
I almost never take my kids food shopping. I like going on my own, to clear my head, without anyone nudging me to buy this candy or that chocolate milk. And last Friday, seeing her coming home like that was the first time it really sunk in for me…Yael is raising her kids on her own.
The other day there was a performance for neighborhood children at the park. “Yael, are you coming?” I asked her as we headed out. “No, my baby fell asleep. I can’t go,” she answered me with the gentle smile which is always on her lips.
“Where will you be for Shabbat?” I asked her a few days later. “Home, we’re almost always home on our own.”
This morning, I asked her about her work, “Are you teaching this year?” “No,” she told me, “I loved that job but it was too much being a homeroom teacher, juggling the kids and the afternoon hours with my husband in the army. So I’m retraining to become a math teacher.”
I actually met Yael for the first time 13 years ago when she was dating her husband. She knew that her husband was going to stay in the army and rise up to a leadership position. I remember she wasn’t certain that this was the life she wanted, to be married to a man who was almost never home, who could often not share with her how or where he spent his days.
But she chose to marry him, because she loved him, and because she loves Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. And for these three great loves, she was willing to make great sacrifices.
A few years ago, on a day off from the army, Yael’s husband killed a terrorist during a large terror attack. Afterwards, his heroism was praised throughout Israel and the Jewish world.
Aside from being “So-and-So’s wife” nobody has heard of Yael, who enables her husband to do what he does.
But this Chanukah, as we remember heroes of our past, I am remembering the heroes who live next door. Both of them.