In September 2012, I was blessed to be in Israel for Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. This experience blessed my life personally and it was a great time to take a lot of photos. When the time came for me to depart, friends in Israel asked me when I would be returning home (meaning back to Israel). This was the first time I did not know that answer. My father had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver, so I planned to put everything on hold and help take care of him. In addition to this two of my daughters were pregnant and I certainly wanted to be home for them. My answer to friends was simply, I really do not know when I am returning.
My return flight home to the states was delayed due to hurricane Sandy, but I finally made it home on November 4, 2012. During the time I was in Israel, Hamas and its surrogates had been firing rockets into southern Israeli cities. This is quite common, especially around the holidays. Little did I know that shortly after I left things would escalate and Operation Pillar of Defense would begin.
Back at home in the U.S. my soul was so heavy, I wanted to be back with my friends. I knew that if there I would be staying in an apartment with a bomb shelter and some of my friends could come over rather than stand in their stairwells. Even though I was not there I stayed in constant contact with friends through the week and followed the Israeli media.
One day a very dear friend in Israel said, look how fast things can change in a week. Wow, I had only been home one week when the war broke out. As the days went on I watched how media all over would not report the complete stories. Hamas what spreading propaganda to the international media and they were believing it. I kept saying, where are the international reporters? Why are they not talking to the families in Southern Israel who have been the recipients of the rockets?
After a discussion one day, I knew the answer to my question. The media loves sensationalism, so they must hang out in Gaza. I decided that if they would not tell the stories of the Israelis, then I would. So one week after the cease fire, I was back in Israel for a couple weeks, gathering the stories to tell.
So, I jumped back on a plan and headed back to Israel. I was only home for 2 weeks. The morning I left the US a friend in Israel wished me a safe flight back home. That hit me deep in the soul. Wow Israel, my home? Maybe that is why my heart is so burdened to tell the stories of those in Israel impacted by the recent war. These are voices that the media will not listen to.
I responded by saying I was excited for the 5.5 hour delay in New York as I always meet someone interesting in the Delta Sky Club Lounge.
Well, I did. I was working on my laptop when a gentleman (Avi) sat down to plug his laptop in. We exchanged a polite hello and continued on with our business. Sometime later, he needed to go to the men’s room and asked if I would watch his belongings. Upon his return we began to dialogue.
Come to find out, he was born in Israel and moved to the US after his service in the IDF. He asked the purpose of my trip and I shared about collecting stories of people who were affected by the war. He shared his story. He was in California, and had a conference call with employees in his office and with leaders from an Israeli company. The gentleman on the Israeli end explained that a war was going on, so if they heard a siren he would be leaving the phone but would return to the call.
Wouldn’t you know it, as they proceeded with business the siren went off and the man had to leave the phone and go to his bomb shelter. Those left on the other end in the US were listening in total shock. A few minutes later they heard the boom of the rocket landing. The Israeli gentleman returned to the phone and told those on the other end of the line all was okay. They proceeded with the business meeting as though nothing happened.
My new friend Avi simply smiled and said…..This is Israel! We quickly became friends and chatted off and on throughout the flight.
It has been 7 months since I have returned to Israel. Once again, I will be returning for the Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot and once again, I have a 5.5 hour layover in New York. I look forward to this trip. I will be joined by a couple from Massachusetts, along with Tom and Heather from Borderless Designs for their first trip to Israel, and Michael will join me for his first Sukkot. We will once again be telling the stories of Israel.