Israel at War: The Beauty in the Storm

When we moved into Neve Daniel, I was a young, stay at home mom with three small kids.  Our first experience with winter on our foggy mountaintop town threw me for a loop.  It was cold – way colder than I ever expected to feel in Israel.  It was dark and gloomy…for what felt like weeks at a time.  By mid-January, I had huddled indoors for far too long, and I could feel my mood sinking with every passing day.  By March, I felt like I was going stir crazy, waiting for the sun to shine again and the birds to start chirping.  Winter was my official enemy.

The same routine repeated itself, year after bitter year.  Winter would come, and I would wish for it to end.  Cloistered away indoors, avoiding the storms, the wind, the cold, the rain, and the fog, I felt a sort of depression wash over me.  It seemed like there was no good side to winter in Israel.

And then one year, something totally different happened. 

For years, my husband and I had reserved our Friday mornings for café breakfasts and city walks.  But one October, we decided to start hiking on Fridays instead. We embraced our new outdoorsy routine through the months of October, November, and December, with practically no cold weather or rain to contend with.

But one Friday in January, we woke up to fog, drizzle, and cold – not exactly hiking weather. It was decision time– would we continue to pursue our newfound love of the outdoors even during the dreaded wintertime? Or would we give up on our Friday morning adventures?

Adventure won out, and we found ourselves trekking through drizzly days, donned in raincoats and hiking boots, and equipped with a thermos of hot coffee.  We descended from the foggy cloud that surrounded our mountaintop town, and I discovered an absolutely beautiful side to winter in Israel.

Turns out there were flowers…lots of them.  Flowers in so many colors that I never would have believed it.  They sprouted along hills and between rocks in shades of pink, purple and red.  They grew in fields, thick with lush, green, grass.  The usually dry and monotone landscape of Israel had turned into something out of a fairy tale.  It was impossible not to see the beauty, almost hidden by the cold and rain. We even encountered winter rivers that appeared as if out of nowhere, in places that were usually bone dry.

This magnificent world had always been there, while I had huddled indoors. Getting out just allowed me to access a new perspective on winter storms.  All I had needed to do was step into nature and open my eyes to the possibility of something beautiful.

And now here we are back in reality… It’s war time in Israel. Since the events of October 7th, everything feels so gloomy and dark.  Like so many others, I focus in on the news, the horrific events of the day, our fears, preparations for attacks, etc. I could use a big dose of something beautiful.

This, of course, is a challenge. My usual methods of encountering beauty are either off limits or unattainable.  The great outdoors? Not so sure that’s completely safe. Backyard gardening? I have no motivation to spend the morning pulling weeds and planting pretty flowers. Writing? Believe me, I’ve tried.

It’s seems impossible to move forward with any project, hard to appreciate even the regular beauty of day to day life. 

Life in Israel is hard right now. 

Things are tough.  Like winter air, life feels bitter. We’re mourning our losses and nervous about what’s to come.  The dark nature of the world opinion, the lack of any hope for a real solution –  these are all elements of a winter storm that I want to escape.  I wish I could fast forward to summertime, whenever that will be. Or huddle under a blanket and shut my eyes to reality.  But hidden away from the harsh world, I might miss out on the opportunity to recognize something important.  And perhaps something beautiful.

Despite the difficulty of these times, the beauty of our people is shining right now.  Inside Israel and around the world, Jews are banding together to help one another in every way they can.  The chesed (kindness) has reached such a peak that its almost comical.  Videos and pictures of soldiers, stuffed to maximum capacity with food and gear, circulate on WhatsApp groups. These clips provide some comic relief for mothers around the country.

Jews everywhere volunteer time and money.  A story comes to mind – my father in law decided to fly into Israel this week, unable to rest in retirement at home in New Jersey while his people were suffering.  Waiting in line with his luggage at the airport, he bumped into a fellow Jew who struck up a conversation.  The man so badly wanted to contribute – so, he took out a wad of cash and paid for half of my father in law’s ticket.  Then he took out another wad to send to my soldier son.

Is there anything more beautiful than this unselfish nation, this incredible, united community that feels a responsibility, a deep desire, to help one another in times of need? 

Stories of courage and heroism on October 7th are numerous, in contrast to the horrific barbarism of our enemies.  I haven’t heard one description from the music festival that didn’t include an attempt to rescue other strangers during escape. In modern times, this unselfish behavior is just not normal.

Average humans rushed back, again and again into the slaughter, risking their lives to rescue others.  Ex-soldiers flocked to the border towns, knowing full well that their lives were in danger.  Many were killed. The very fact that we stood up to fight is inspiring – in the not too distant past, Jews could not do this.

Things are sort of subdued here in Israel, and it’s unsettling.  We are all ready and waiting for something big to happen, hopefully something good. 

Here we wait in the eye of the hurricane, in a moment of calm.  Now is a time to look around and see that beauty does exist, even during these dark days. Despite the horrific destruction of this unwelcome tempest, the magnificent flowers that are the Jewish people are blossoming in shades of every color, right in the middle of the storm.

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