Bleeding Hearts

As many of you know, this has been a very difficult and trying week for me, my family, my community, and my country.

Last Sunday, I was writing to you from breezy Jerusalem, to where I had “escaped” for 25 hours of ME time, no time constrictions, no responsibilities - except to enjoy myself and chill out. I returned home, spent some time with my kids, gave the last in the Self Relaxation Course series to a private group of women, and prepared for bed. And then…I was on the phone with my husband (who was at work in his home office) talking about some events in our kids’ lives when I heard him gasp. And that was the beginning of 30 hours of hell. There had been a Pigua (terror attack) on the roads 10 minutes up the road from our Yishuv (community). A drive by shooting. Four wounded. Immediate thought: was it someone we know? My husband described the car to me, and neither of us recognized it so we assured ourselves that this was not from our community family. It was an atrocity, and needs to be stopped, and terrible for the families who were involved, but we were not going to take a direct hit.

Here’s the difference. A pigua that affects others in another community is terrible, awful, heart-wrenching, and needs to be stopped on a national level. But a pigua that affects our community means that we are going to feel like it was our son. And that pain and wake-up call and grieving and consoling our kids and the trauma that it brings up to the surface from previous similar occurances is just too much. There is an expression in Hebrew when you go through something on a very personal level – you feel it “al besarech” – on your flesh. Any Jew being wounded hurts all Jews. But when it is someone you know and live with and your kids are friends with their siblings and the parents are well known and part of your community…well, that’s just a whole new level.

So, a few minutes later we get the call from our daughter who is a teenager (they have the fastest most accurate news system in our community – you want to know something in detail, ask a teenager) that it is people we know – all four are young men from our community. On their way back from a basketball game. There were other team members traveling at the same time who arrived on scene quickly. All four men in the car were shot. All four in their 20s. Two single, two married. Wails were heard on the streets surrounding their homes.

At the time, we knew who was hurt, but not how badly. We went back and forth between consoling our hysterical daughter, calling our family in the States so they should not find out in the middle of the night that four boys from our Yishuv were hurt and not know if we were ok, texting friends for support, and calling one friend whose husband had been in the car behind and was still on scene for questioning of the events.

But there was one kid who stood out for us. The one who was, according to the reports coming in, the most severely wounded. The son of a family who 13 years earlier lost another son in a tragic accident. How? we asked. How can the family and this community go through this again? Over the 14.5 years that we have been here, we have lost so many members of our community to terror attacks and terrible accidents. How could we go through this pain again? How will our kids get through this pain?

We prayed. We cried. We beseeched G-d to save this boy and his family from more tragedy. We waited by our phones for an update, praying, hoping, beseeching. We were numb. We were outraged. We were terrified. We were frozen in time and yet time was still moving on and with it, caring for the kids, doing laundry, preparing meals. Everything in slow motion and in a warp zone, waiting, waiting for good news. Only good news. Only positive thoughts. Only miracles and blessings.

Slowly news came in that the other three were only lightly wounded and would G-d willing be OK. But that sigh of relief could not come. Malachi Rosenfeld was still unstable, in critical condition, the fight of his life. Hours and hours. Another prayer group, and another. Psalms and more psalms. Hopes and more hopes. Update: he’s stable but still in critical condition. That was all it took for us all to grab onto that hope we had been harboring – “All will be okay.” We felt a tiny bit of relief. We were right – he will get through this. His family will be fine. We will all be fine.

And then, just a few hours later, around 5 in the afternoon, my husband came into the kitchen where I was sitting with the kids and I looked up into his eyes and said, “No, I don’t believe you. No. It’s not true. I don’t believe you.” It was too much. Just too much. The next few hours were just a haze of pain. Getting one foot in front of the other. Putting kids to bed. Waiting for word on the funeral details. Wondering how we were going to do this. How was I going to get myself through this, and help my kids through it at the same time????

The next morning, the first thought was, “This is not a day I want to wake up to.” How were we, as a community, going to bury another one of our sons?? How was this wonderful beautiful full of music and love Rosenfeld family going to bury another child!!!?!? How do we do this?

But faith prevails. Faith, when you live it and breathe it and practice it over and over – when you are tested over and over, it is what rises to the surface in times of terrible crisis. It is the prevailing thought, the prevalent leader. It takes over and moves you forward. Just as a woman in labor suffers and endures the pains of labor, knowing she is bringing something beautiful into this world, so we will endure this suffering, knowing it is moving us towards the greater beauty to be found in the Salvation. We trust and believe with complete faith that G-d is moving us forward on a path that is leading to our ultimate good. We are suffering pain. We are dealing with the backlash of another act of terror on our roads and to our people. But Malachi, he is with G-d. We are suffering from pain because we are in the dark. He is no longer suffering, as he sits in the ray of light that emanates from G-d’s throne.

We, the ones who are here, are left to do our work. To take our lessons to be learned from this atrocity and LEARN THEM. Everything happens for a reason and a purpose and it serves you (thank you Stacey Martino). Not just the little bumps and bruises of everyday life. Also the big stuff. Also the atrocities. Everything in life doesn’t just happen – it is purposefully placed in our path so that we may learn something from it to further us on our roads to fulfilling our potential.

And that is what I prayed for during that long night of fighting for Malachi to live. Please G-d, let us learn our lesson from this tragedy without it needing to cost someone his life. PLEASE, G-d, teach us our lesson and let us all be open to learning it and internalizing it so that he might not die for this lesson.

But, alas, G-d needed our prayers, this world needed our prayers, and G-d needed Malachi back with Him.

And so we buried Malachi that Wednesday morning. We stood with the hoards that had come from far and wide to honor this fallen soldier – pushed into that capacity by the terrorists who want no peace, only death – and we cried. We cried as our Rav (Rabbinic leader of our community) spoke beautifully and eloquently of the beautiful midot (character traits) that the family instilled in this beautiful young man. How these traits are not now gone, how the raising of this child was not for naught, how his beauty and character will shine forever in this world. He comforted us all by saying “HaShem sas v’samach bevo’o elav tzaddik” (HaShem rejoiced and was happy when this righteous man came up to Him).

We cheered silently while Naftali Bennet proclaimed all of Israel Mitnachlim (settlers). We Israelis are all living on this land of our fathers. Although some of us are disillusioned as to the desires of the Arabs, and wrongfully think that if the “Settlers” would just leave the “settlements”, peace would be found with our Arab countrymen, those of us who live here and among these Arabs know that they do not want anything short of kicking us out or killing us out until this land is completely theirs. Annihilation is their objective, not peace. The tint of our blood – whether leftist or rightist – makes no difference to them. A Jew is a Jew and therefore deserves to be shot, run over, murdered in their bed. Let the leftists hear this and understand. Let the world know the truth. Boys in Israel can not just go to a basketball game. They can not just live peacefully, raising their kids to love and live in peace. Because our neighbors down the road want us dead, and THAT is our reality. (Let me clarify that I am not talking here about all Arabs, just the many who want us dead.)

We took harbor in the words of the Chief Rabbi in Israel, as he proclaimed our community one of tremendous strength for all we have gone through. I agree. This community is building a generation of leaders, G-d willing, who will set this country to rights. Who will not be afraid to speak up and defend the truth as it IS, and not how others would like to perceive it. Who will defend our borders - within and without – with strength, pride, and success. Who will spread the word of our reality and not back down in the face of two-faced politicians who proclaim one statute for their country and another for ours. Politicians who call themselves world leaders who do not tolerate one iota of treason or terror against their countries, but expect us to put down arms and sit and talk with those who commit those acts in ours.

We cried with the friends who eulogized their brilliant and loving lost friend.

And we wailed – waves of grief washing over the crowd – as the father of Malachi got up and had the strength and courage to talk about his second fallen son, while embracing the now two oldest sons in the family. We cried rivers from the pain. We cried and cried from the inspiration this man gave us. And we all lost it as he sang one last song, demanding that Malachi sing along with him, “And when G-d is hidden from us, and when times are hard, we know G-d is there, and we will stand, we will stand!!!”

And now we are piecing ourselves back together. We were splintered and broken open. Our hearts were cut and we bled. And now we will put ourselves back together and we will be stronger. We will be stronger.

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