Was the joy of taking my first child to the wedding canopy going to be marred by a tragedy?
That was my thought as I raced through the house looking for my uncle’s phone number. Outside the sun had not even risen but inside, our house was bright with a number of electrical lights. The phone call from my oldest son, in route from a business trip and waiting in JFK Airport, had plunged me and my husband into a frenzied panic.
“I can’t find Opa*. They’re boarding the flight to Israel. I’ve been to the Arrivals and no one will tell me anything. What should I do?”
Had my father suffered a heart attack? Maybe there’d been an accident on the way to the airport? My father was an organized, prompt, and considerate man. What could possibly make him miss the flight to his first grandson’s wedding? Would my uncle have any answers?
My bottom lip trembled. My hands shook. I fought tears as I opened the address book. I felt trapped inside a nightmare.
Before I could dial our phone rang again.
My father’s first flight had departed late causing him to miss his connecting flight to New York. He caught another plane and arrived at JFK in the nick of time. It all made perfect sense but in the early hours of the morning I was far more emotional than sensible. After the second phone call my emotions were full of gratitude and relief. My nightmare had ended before it had really begun. Our child was married four days later in a wedding full of joy and thankfulness.
|My father with my son at his wedding|
Eleven years later another family was joyously preparing to marry off their child. Five days before the wedding they kissed the bride good-bye, leaving her to enjoy her last Shabbat as an unmarried girl with her friends. Her father, mother, and siblings would celebrate with the groom’s family. Everyone anticipated a Shabbat full of joy.
However, as the family car made its way to the groom’s home a passing vehicle holding hate-filled Arabs opened fire spraying the family with bullets. Reportedly a Red Crescent ambulance, the Moslem wing of the Red Cross, stood nearby but offered no assistance. By the time Magen David Adom, the Israeli ambulance, arrived it was too late to save the bride’s father, Rabbi Yaakov Littman, hy’d, or her eighteen-year-old brother, Netanel, hy’d. The anticipated joyous Shabbat had turned to one of deep sorrow and pain. When will their nightmare ever end?
Shortly before that Shabbat started reports of the terror attack made its’ rounds in the Israeli news, but details were not forthcoming. Once Shabbat ended they were obscured by the massive tragedy in Paris. As horrific as that disaster was, it does not lessen the pain of us in Israel. As the Facebook post declared, Paris 11/13; New York 9/11; Israel 24/7.
While caring people worldwide condemn the violence in Paris and express their support for France, we in Israel question why those same condemnations and expressions of support are so measly when it concerns us. We don’t wonder for long, though. A serious look at history shows that we must take care of ourselves. We cannot rely on the United Nations, the European Union, the Pope, President Obama, or any other world leaders. No, we can only turn to G-d.
That is exactly what happened at the Kotel the Sunday following the murders. Ordinary women, like myself, were exchanging names of the wounded from recent terror attacks. They didn’t know the injured personally but, even so they considered them as part of their family. I joined in their heartfelt prayers pleading with HaShem for a full recovery for all and an end to the terror.
We also prayed for Sara Littman and her family. We prayed that they would be comforted among the mourners of Zion. We prayed that Sara would be able to find joy going to her wedding canopy despite the blaring absence of her father and brother.
She and her fiancé have announced that their wedding will be postponed only by nine days and that the entire nation of Israel is invited. It will be a difficult wedding and yet they are determined to make it a happy one. They are adamant that our enemies will not crush us. They are resolute in their desire to change their sorrow into joy. I pray that they will be able to do so. I pray that our nightmares will end.