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A week of everything: Olympiad at Ma’ale Habsor, qassams, weddings, sunshine and psychologists

This week had something for everyone: athletes, those nostalgic for ‘Tzeva Adom’, brides (my niece), and psychologists who took care of qassam fears.

The Olympiad of the Mossad at Ma’ale Habsor began last Sunday, November 1. Students from the Mossad and other enthusiasts took part in games of all sorts: Volleyball, Soccer, Athletics, etc. The kids were in charge of organizing and publishing a day’s end newspaper reporting on the events.

Lots of energy was devoted to this traditional week of intensive sports, sponsored by the Mossad of the Shomer Hatzair Kibbutz movement. Both my son and daughter were busy in the events, as participants and spectators, as were most kids at Ma’ale Habsor.

The very day that my daughter chose not to sleep overnight in her dorm room at the Mossad turned out to be the morning when we re-experienced falling qassams. (Link: Ha’aretz )This past Tuesday morning, the Western Negev had a morning of ‘Tzeva Adom.’  I know that no one reads this blog of mine to find out the latest news – there are newspapers aplenty for that. But here, I’ll tell you how it feels to be preparing for a normal school day and to hear the female voice with her ‘Tzeva Adom’ alert – repeated 3 times and then another 3 times. All in all, 4 different alerts – with several booms afterwards. When was it safe to stop counting the 15 seconds allowed us after the first alert? We didn’t know.

My daughter and I were at home. We had nowhere to run. In the case of advance alert, we have no shelter nearby and though the government promised to build a sheltered room for every house on the kibbutz, this pledge has been set aside during this period of the Calming Down (or ceasefire) in place since June.

So, we stood hugging each other under a doorframe away from windows until we felt safe enough to move. She was scared.  I wondered if I should ride my bike to school, as I have been doing since the beginning of this school term. It’s been awhile. I’d forgotten the feeling of anxiously counting off 15 seconds. I’d forgotten how I’d be halfway to school when I’d hear booms in fields somewhere nearby. I’d forgotten how I’d search the horizon for signs of smoke. I’d forgotten how I’d continued my morning walk with quick phonecalls to family members to see if they were okay and if they’d found out where the qassams had landed.

It all came rushing back. The alert, the lack of a safe place to wait it out, the wonder if this was the start, the end, the signal for war.

That day, we got to school, of course. I with the kibbutz transport, she with the schoolbus, all in thankful uneventful regularity.

However, at school that day, a whole slew of students made their way to the nearby Telem Station (psychological services). They had been in their dorm rooms at the Mossad when they’d heard the Tzeva Adom. Getting to class, they asked for permission to seek some help. There, they were given a chance to vent their fears and receive tools to cope with anxiety. When they returned, they worked, seemingly able to carry on with their day. How soon, the mind adjusts, the psychology adapts and life continues.

In my 10th grade class, students saw fit to pull out their “Tzeva Adom” ringtone – an old prank that scared kids to pieces last year but only now had another round of usefulness. It was ineffective. We’d learned the trick and had been through enough alerts. One student showed his cellphone photo of a fallen qassam – he’d been at home on his kibbutz when it landed.

Another student reported 3 qassams had fallen on her kibbutz and that they’d had 10 “Tzeva Adom” alerts. I’m reporting numbers here, people. It’s math. But it’s part of our reality. We know this routine. We are afraid, but we know this, we’ve felt this, and we’ll deal. We hope for continued peace. We continue in the hope that peace will be an end product of these days of uncertainty.

As today’s banner shows, weddings are always pleasant. They bring together family and long-time neighbours. In our case, we attended the marriage of our niece from Ein Hashofet and her fiancee from Daliya. The Ein Hashofet people were instrumental in setting up Kibbutz Nir Oz, so the family connections continue.

Mazal Tov!

Mazal Tov!

The ceremony was a mix: secular together with allusions to the traditional religious elements. The food was delicious, the after speeches were musical. My niece, Dalit, serenaded her sister, Dana, the bride with a wonderful solo of a piece they used to sing in harmony on their porch on Saturday evening. Their mother sat, headcovered being mid-chemo, in utter motherly joy listening, watching, looking proud. Not a dry eye in the house.

Simchas, fabulous celebrations, balance life in Israel, for here, And, still the school is being built. One of the workers, already used to my weekly photo shoots asked me to snap his photo.

Take my photo!

Take my photo!

Another worked asked me not to. The walls are rising. This new school to be fully safe from qassam fire is to be ready by September. Till then, we study in mud and noise and in smaller dimensions.

New School - direction towards Nir-Oz

New School - direction towards Nir-Oz

Today, on a gorgeous summer day, I wish you all a great weekend.

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