Just Keep Running

“You wouldn’t believe my day,” my fifteen-year-old daughter announced as she flopped herself into a chair at the kitchen table.  “It was a day of nisim veniflaot.” Miracles and wonders.

That morning, my daughter, Noa, had gone off on a mission to become a volunteer at Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital.  Transportation to and from our small town in Gush Etzion to the big city can be unpredictable at the best of times.  Busses seem to come and go at random, and one is never sure whether they will arrive on schedule. This is even more true during wartime.

After an extremely harrowing trip to the hospital, Noa finally made it there, had her interview, and set out to return home.  She boarded the bus to the Central Station, but when she checked the transport app during the last few minutes of the ride, she saw that the last bus going into our Yishuv was leaving in just one minute.  And she had three minutes left to her ride. If she missed that bus, she would have to take a bus to the stop on the highway below our yishuv and walk up – scary!!!

“You should have seen me,” Noa relayed enthusiastically, “I got off the bus after my interview and there was no chance I was going to make it to the next one. I wasn’t even close. But I really didn’t want to miss it. So, I got off and started running.”

We listened as Noa described the scene – she ran across the Central Bus Station, looking for the right bus.  Eventually, one person showed her that it was still sitting right there just across the street.  And told her that she’d better “Run, run, run!!” 

Noa grabbed her Naot sandals into her hands and took off sprinting in her socks all the way to Gesher HaMaytarim, bag flopping behind her. She got there just as the last person was getting onto the bus, “Besiyata Dshmaya! How is that even possible?” she finished off,  “The bus was supposed to have been long gone.”

I complimented her on her speed and dexterity, and we moved on to the next topic of conversation.  There’s always a lot to discuss with that one.

The very next week, Noa came to me with a problem: She had a test the following day in gym class.  (A gym test?!) And she absolutely could not go.  Why? Two reasons: The first (completely incomprehensible to her parents) reason was that she had been skipping gym class all year long (you know, the war and stuff) and it would be downright embarrassing to show up at this point in the year.  The teacher didn’t even know who she was.  The second reason: The test was a mile run, which despite her hiking skills and previous participation in a running group, she felt was beyond her capabilities.  There was simply no way she could do it.

We laughed and listened, coaxed, and cajoled.  And over the course of an afternoon and much conversation (including a decisive talk with her older sister), Noa decided that she was just going to have to suck it up and complete the run.

The next day she came home from her gym test… victorious!  Somehow, she hadn’t died with embarrassment when introducing herself to the gym teacher for the first time that year.  And not only had she completed the run, but she had been one of the top five fastest girls in the class.  “Must be all of that running for the bus,” I hypothesized.  All’s well that ends well.  Just another day in the exciting life of a regular fifteen-year-old girl in Israel.

But life is not always exactly normal for teenagers around here…

One week later, we were in the middle of another teenage drama.  My daughter, somehow, had gotten stuck taking an online Arabic class at 6:30 Sunday evenings, on the very same day that school ends at 5:30 PM. A class of this sort was a requirement for her curriculum, but it still made all Sundays supremely challenging for her.  After a relaxing weekend, returning to a full day of school and then coming home to an Arabic class felt like pure torture (which I understood – who thought a night class was a good idea?).  And this was no joke of a class – the girls, who joined the online meetup from all around the country, actually had to have their cameras on, making halfhearted attendance impossible.

On this specific week, not only did she have the Sunday evening online class to attend, but she also had an in-person Arabic class meetup on Thursday in Tel Aviv.  The unfairness of teenage life!

The morning of the big meetup arrived.  I was surprised to see that Noa was dressed and ready to go early.  Despite the preceding drama, she seemed fine with the fact that she had to spend the day at an Arabic class meetup.  Maybe she was looking forward to the warmer weather, or maybe she had just accepted her teenage fate.  She said goodbye, boarded the bus, and off she went to Tel Aviv.

The day passed as usual back in cloudy Neve Daniel.  But that afternoon, when my daughter returned, she had some exciting news.

“You wouldn’t believe what happened,” she announced as she threw her bag down, “Did you know that there was a rocket attack on Tel Aviv today?!  Tons of rockets were aimed right at Central Israel…during the meetup!!!!”

Apparently, she had called us numerous times and we had missed her calls (whoops!). We listened as she told the story:

There they all were, sitting around during their lunch break in a grassy area in Tel Aviv, right near Bar Ilan University, twenty girls gathered and 500 more milling around.  Their small group was playing hand games in a large circle. It was cute, and joyous, and felt very perfect. The weather was great, “Too good to be true,” she elaborated. 

Suddenly a series of loud booms broke the spell, causing murmurs in the crowd –  everyone knows that loud booms may mean incoming rockets. “It’s probably just my brother blowing things up in Gaza,” Noa offered, as she picked up her phone to check the Homefront Command app. 

But then she saw that there had been several rocket alerts in nearby cities.  My daughter tensed up and got ready to run, waiting for the sirens to start wailing.  And, “Woooooooooooooooooooo,”the dreaded noise began to blast over loudspeakers.

The girls got up in a panic, crowds running towards the bomb shelters inside the university.  There were so many of them – it was unlikely that the two miklatim made for 30  people each had enough space.  First, Noa joined the throngs attempting to grab a space in the shelter.   Her friend pulled her by her hand, through the crowds. But as the sirens continued to wail and no progress was made into the sea of people, they took off into a different part of the university, running at top speed through the halls, looking for shelter.  The crowds were in a panic, running about every which way.  My daughters backpack got caught on a door handle.

Finally, she and her friend gave up the search and gathered instead with a group in a relatively protected area.  They heard more booms, closer this time.  Eventually, ten minutes after the sirens started, they decided it was safe to go out.

When the whole drama was over, she and her friend left the university in a daze.  They headed towards the bus – it was definitely time to go home.  Shrapnel lay in the street, leftover from the rockets which had been neutralized by Iron Dome.  “Look, Noa” one of her friends said holding out her hand with a small piece of shrapnel, “This fell on my head.”  The girls were in shock.

As my daughter finished up her story, I looked at her with a sympathetic smile.  “Guess all that running for the bus really did come in handy,” I joked. I couldn’t believe my lack of alarm at the day’s events.  My daughter’s day certainly had been exciting, but somehow, with a son fighting the war in Gaza, a barrage of rockets didn’t even seem all that frightening.  What was happening to my normal parental instincts?

Even Noa seemed less than bothered by what happened.  Yes, it had been a shock, and scary.  She would think twice before wandering around Tel Aviv without access to a bomb shelter next time.  But it had also been, “Chavyati,” – an exciting experience – she wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

In this crazy teenage life here in Israel, my daughter, and many like her, must keep on running.  If anything good could be said to have come from this experience of war, it’s a feeling of being watched over by God, “Ima, those resisim (shrapnel pieces) were giant. And they fell so close – they could have easily hit us,” she said to me, “Hashem was protecting us.”

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