Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Meaning of Purim - A Reminder

Years ago, there was a terrible attack a few hours before Purim began. We were invited to a Purim party at friends after hearing the Megillah and putting the kids to sleep. As Purim entered and we walked to the synagogue, they were still counting the bodies in Tel Aviv.

I called our friend in tears, waiting to hear his confirmation that the party had been canceled. He told me that it was not canceled. I told him I could not come...I could not laugh...I just did not want to celebrate and be happy. I needed to mourn. He listened to everything I said...and then completely ignored it. "Paula," he said, "you will come and you will be happy."

I figured on a compromise - I would go, but I would NOT be happy. We went to the party - driving through the Arab village to get there. This was years ago when these areas were not closed to Israeli traffic as they are today. Years ago, when the Arabs understood that if they wanted Jews to buy in their stores, they couldn't expect to be allowed to stone the cars, throw firebombs at them, etc.

I'd been in the village many times. On a normal evening, the men would be sitting outside the stores, smoking or drinking coffee. If you drove by, they ignored you; if you stopped to shop, they would get up, welcome you to the stores, even offer you Turkish coffee (which I've never tasted in my life).

But that night, it was different. The village was deserted - all the Arabs were inside their homes. Not because there was any closure, but because they understood, I believe, the incredible and justifiable fury we felt. No one driving through the village attacked anything. No one shouted in anger but it was best for all sides if there was no contact. We knew this as we looked at their homes and thought of our dead laying in the streets of Tel Aviv, and they knew this too.

They gave us time for our anger and for our pain. Of course, back then, they knew it was Arabs who had set the bomb and there was no attempt to pretend or claim others had done it. How different, I thought, that now again they attack us around Purim, but this time pretend. The Itamar massacre, as some are calling it, was as violent and inhumane as any we have seen in recent years. It almost defies the human ability to comprehend its horror or that capability of any human being to perform such atrocities. Though initially Fatah claimed responsibility and indeed is likely to be found responsible, they and others stepped back from this claim. Palestinian news source, Maan, even had the audacity to suggest that Thai workers were to blame, despite the fact that there are no Thai workers on Itamar.

Purim is supposed to be a time of triumph, of celebration. Why do the Arabs attack close to Purim? They want to take this from us, my friend told me, that night. He was right. That was part of why the Fogel family was attacked and murdered, part of why yesterday sixty mortars and rockets were fired at Israel. And as they attack, it is our responsibility to remind them of the essence of Purim, the victory we claim as ours year after year. So, I baked for Purim as I always do. I laughed and enjoyed the holiday with my family, as I always do.

The more we mourn, the greater will be our joy. The more we cry, the more we will laugh.

We will reach deep inside ourselves. We will never forget Rav Udi and Ruthie. We will always mourn for Yoav, Elad, and for baby Hadas and we will watch over Tamar, Roei and Yishai. But, we will celebrate the miracle that is Purim. We will celebrate our triumph over the evil that was Haman, that was Hitler, and that is Fatah and Hamas.

Purim is an incredible story - from promised destruction to watching as our enemies die the very death they would have given to us. It is what happened then, what has happened again and again in our history. So today, we cooked a special meal and ate out on our balcony surrounded by our neighbors. There was singing and laughter. A neighbor called to my son-in-law and offered him a drink. My son-in-law held up a bottle of wine to show we had our own drinks here.

The neighbor's guest said it was a silly drink and my son-in-law should come over and share with them. Men dressed in costumes, children laughed and played in the yards, the balconies, the streets.

An explosion was heard in the southern region - 10,000 people attended a parade. My two older sons have gone into Jerusalem; my youngest son will leave shortly. We made packages of cakes and food and delivered them to our friends, and got bags and bags delivered to us.

There's a gentle breeze blowing; I can still hear the music. Purim for most of Israel is just beginning to fade away but the sense of blessing and triumph remain. We have outlasted them all. We watched the Ancient Egyptians fade into history, watched as Greece and Rome fell. Haman fell before us, as Amalek had before him. We watched the Cossacks and the Crusaders come and go. We watched as Haman was hanged on the very tree he would have used for Mordechai.

Nation after nation has fallen, time and time again. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein - all that vowed our destruction are no more. This isn't pride or arrogance, but faith. The moon circles the earth; the earth circles the sun and each day, the Jewish nation does what it must to survive.

Last Shabbat was one trial, one horrible, agonizing pain but here we are a week later, remembering that we will survive it. Tamar Fogel, just 12-years-old, and already smarter than most of our government - we will build, we will settle, we will survive and we will triumph. As the day fades away, we remember all that came before, knowing it strengthens us for all that will come in the future.

Happy Purim - may its blessing light the way for the year to come until we are again granted the reminder that we are the children of Israel and we are home.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this. I don't think I ever realized that you had a blog! We may not always agree on US politics but know that you and I are bonded by our love of Israel and the importance of preserving Israel as a Jewish State and as a State for the Jews. Happy Purim!

A Soldier's Mother said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I appreciate your kind I know you? It sounded that way by your first line. As for my US-politics, I have very different politics for internal versus foreign US interests, as I think most people would if they lived here and saw the US from more distant shores.

Happy Purim to you as well.


Moshe Sharon said...

When Haman made his evil decree to annihilate all Jews, this was the only time in our history that a descendent of Amalek actually had the ability to carry out such a horrific ruling because all of the Jewish people were living in exile in one realm. The people were unified to the extent that the evil Haman’s hatred of one Jew, Mordechai, was the same as hatred of all. Hence, Esther inspired the Jewish Nation to make Teshuvah in unity as one body and one soul. Today, although we are spread out in all four corners of the Earth by Divine Providence, we are, once again, facing the same type of threat from the modern day Haman, the current prime minister of Persia threatening our Holy Land with nuclear weapons, G-d forbid. Thus, we need to surrender ourselves to the same Jewish unity that saved us before. The unity of our people is attainable now more than ever because internet technology has turned the entire globe into a single realm, leaving us as one people in exile in G-d's Kingdom with one mind, one heart and one soul, rejoicing over the fact that we are a Holy Nation unto G-d assured of our final redemption with Mashiach. May all of you experience the extreme Joy of a Freilicha Purim, to be blessed with G-d’s abundance and with good health; “For the Jews, there was light and joy, gladness and honor—so let it be with us.”

jan said...

Inspiring to read again and again. I wish we could spend every holiday in Israel, and when our son makes Aliyah in the summer, we will try and come as often as possible.

NJ Mom of Chayal said...

Hi, I'm glad to have found your blog. I am a "new" soldier's mother. My son Akiva just went into the army last Tuesday. I live in Teaneck, NJ and 19 year old Akiva now lives in Israel after having gone to Yeshivat Hakotel for 1 1/2 years. I read your posts about when your sons went into the army and only because I've been learning a little bit about the "culture" of the army little by little did I understand some of the nuances; like what it's like to drop your son(s) off and waiting with baited breath to hear from them.
I'm just at the very beginning of this journey and am trying to get used to not knowing where he is, not hearing from him and not being able to contact him at the push of a phone button! I'm so proud of him-inspired even-but the fear of the unknown is always there. I'm looking forward to his tekes and looking even more forward to coming in, seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him as well.
Like I said, I'm glad to have found your blog. It will give me window to the world of the chayal and his mother. Joyce

A Soldier's Mother said...

Hi Joyce,
Does your son have a family here that has adopted him - if not, we'd love to! Seriously. For better (and worse), you've entered the roller coaster with the rest of us. In many ways, I think you have it harder because of the distance. It's a heck of a ride but one that is so meaningful, important, and yes, even strengthening. You'll be amazed at the man that comes out of the other end of this process. We seem to have a lot in common - I'm from Teaneck also...but the Teaneck before Teaneck became what it was - grew up there, moved out and married when it really began to fly as a center for Orthodox Jews. My parents had a house on Queen Anne Road. If you send me another comment with your email, I'll reject it so it won't be public, but I'll send you my contact info so if you or your son need anything, you have another connection here.

For now, my only advice is to hold on tight. Most of the time, really, the roller coaster is easy and just goes along level ground. If you feel it dipping or climbing, feel free to contact me!


ProphetJoe said...

Another wonderful post, Paula. I always come here to get uplifted :-)


Orgad and Raizel said...

I remember that attack... The news anchor asked that the parents/relatives of a baby dressed as a clown contact the police as he was found alone... All these years later I still remember that.

Anonymous said...

And on this Shabbat morning, as we were goint to hear Parashat Zachor, the first of 50 mortars started raining down... Zachor et...

Wolfgang said...

"But, we will celebrate the miracle that is Purim. We will celebrate our triumph over the evil that was Haman, that was Hitler, and that is Fatah and Hamas."

Be the next is Iran / Persia.
It is written :)

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