I am going to tell the story that was related to me by a lovely, graceful student I’ll call “S”. I met her when she came to me to be tested for her Oral Matriculation exam at her high school, Sha’ar HaNegev.
S arrived, sat down and was clearly nervous as are most students who are facing a stranger in order to be evaluated for their fluency in English. I told her that I, too, was nervous (after listening to daily reports of qassam fire, who wouldn’t be, but I didn’t tell her that). I asked her if she’d like to talk about her family and from the beginning of our interview, she poured out the facts of her life.
Her older brothers had both moved away to safer territory in other cities. She and the rest of the family were still living in Sderot. She, herself, had been sleeping in their protected shelter for the past 4 months or so. There, she felt safe and no longer needed to dash out of bed when the Red Alert sounded at night. It was easier! She slept with her dog.
The move out of her bedroom took place, however, after a specific event. Her grandparents who had lived in the city decided to move away. Two days later, a qassam struck their house. S told me this and shook her head incredulously…”If they had stayed,” she said, “Who knows what might have happened.”
I had to agree. I also wondered how many times she’d gone over the possible scenerios in her mind.
I, then, asked her what she was planning to do after school. She told me that she was going to go to the Army but that she was sad about leaving the environment of school. She was loathe to leave the halls, the teachers and her good friends. Even the reality of almost daily runs to the school shelters, was comfortably familiar compared to the idea of what might be awaiting in the future.
I asked her what she was thinking about doing after the army and she quite happily announced that she planned to study to be a Veterinarian as she dearly loved animals. (I thought of her dog curling up at her side in bed at night).
When I asked her what advice she could give a young kid about to enter her school, she thought about it. Then, she looked me in the eye and said: “They should simply be themselves and not be afraid. That’s the best way to handle things.”
Thank you, S, I thought to myself. You, who’ve been through the horror of such a close call, continue to radiate hope and compassion.
I wish her and her family the best.
Judih Weinstein Haggai