As a child I was enchanted with the idea of being a pioneer. I pictured myself in a long, homespun dress and calico bonnet, helping to tame the Wild West. When I read in my grammar school Weekly Reader about Edward Kennedy taking his family cross country in a covered wagon I was enchanted. If only my parents would do something like that! Of course, the whole idea of my mother and father doing anything remotely similar was ludicrous. My father always said he had done enough camping in the army and even picnicking was something he tried to avoid.
Somewhere in my adolescent years my enchantment with the nineteenth century began to wane. I began to realize that running to an outhouse in the middle of the night was anything but romantic. I appreciated being able to open the refrigerator door and have food readily available. And to talk to a friend on the telephone was one of my greatest pleasures. So, I tempered my dream of being a pioneer in the Wild West to becoming a settler in the Land of Israel. Although I moved into a house with the advantages of running water and electricity, I was still helping to tame the land. It was the best of both worlds, except when we had power outages.
In the twenty-seven years I have lived in Shilo we have been without power countless times, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes for days. The longest period was this past week when we had what has been called the worst snowstorm in Israel of the past one hundred years. Electric lines all over Yehudah, Shomron, Jerusalem, the Golan, and the Galil went down. In Shilo, power went out on Friday at three in the morning. As I write these words five days later I am using generator power and praying that we will soon be reconnected to power lines.
Twenty years ago most people here heated their homes with gas, kerosene, and wood heaters. As the price of electricity became less expensive, many of us abandoned those heaters for cleaner, electric heat. So last Friday scores of families were left with cold, unheated homes. Countless stories can be told of how families took their old heaters out of storage and made do with heating a room or two. Others kept the gas burners lit on their cooking stoves and huddled in their kitchens. There were those who fled their homes for welcoming neighbors who still used the old-fashioned heat.
Without the electricity the water pump in Shilo does not work and by Shabbat morning we only had a trickle of water in our faucets. Some had filled bathtubs with water Friday afternoon. Others gathered buckets and pots of snow to use for flushing the toilets. We drank soda, whiskey, and the water we had left. By Shabbat afternoon the refrigerators were no longer cold and it seemed more prudent to leave food in one of the cold, unheated rooms or outside.
Our phones were out and cell phone reception was at a minimum. It was several hours after Shabbat that I was finally able to make contact with my children. They were worried and concerned. “Come to us,” my middle daughter begged. “We have heat, hot water, everything.” It sounded lovely but the roads were closed, many blocked by heavy snow, others too icy to be able to drive safely.
By Sunday, afternoon, though, we were able to leave. Slowly, carefully, my husband drove down the Shilo hill to the highway. There were still some patches of ice but most of the way was smooth. Twenty-five minutes from home the whole landscape changed. Gone was the pristine, white snow. Instead the hills were their normal green and brown. Our first stop was at my son’s in-laws and life was routine there. It was so strange to see that schools and businesses were open. I felt like a refugee from another world trying to adjust to normal life. I used the bathroom and amazingly the toilet flushed automatically. We were hungry and my son’s mother-in-law casually opened up her refrigerator and pulled out some Shabbat leftovers. Without thinking she slipped them into the microwave. What a miracle! In a matter of minutes we had a good, hot meal. Then we arrived at our daughter’s home and she gave us towels and soap. Inside the shower I turned on the faucet and hot water came gushing out. What a luxury!
Meanwhile in Shilo the electric company brought generators and there was once again running water in Shilo. The phone lines began working and with the generators there was power off and on. Monday afternoon we decided it was time to return home. Our adventure was not over but we believed the end was in sight.
Now, six days later, as I finish this article we are reconnected to the power lines. Although we still are concerned about icy patches the adventure is more or less over. As always, after such an adventure, it is important to try to learn from the experience. Although I had spent my childhood wishing to live in The Olden Days, I have spent most of my adult years taking many of the wonders HaShem has given us for granted. It took a serious power outage for me to really appreciate what a privilege it is to brush my teeth with running water. And so I have learned to be grateful for all the wonderful, miraculous inventions HaShem has made for us. I pray I will not forget this lesson.