Rabbi Mauricio Balter: War diary entry number 2, from Be'er Sheva

War diary entry number 2, from Be'er Sheva
Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Congregation Eshel Avraham
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A few minutes ago Shabbat ended, and I'm sitting here writing the second entry into my war journal. The first one I wrote four days ago, and it feels like ages ago.

I would like to share with you the experience of Shabbat. In our community, we decided to announce that the synagogue would be open for prayers and that I would be there.
The idea was not to invite or encourage people to get out of the house when we are in war. I would remind you that it is the moments of moving from place to place that are the most dangerous. Because when the sirens go off, you have to quickly find cover, which isn't always easy. In these circumstances, leaving the house is everyone's independent decision.

Yesterday, at 5PM I opened the synagogue (prayers start at 5:30). At 5:15 there was a siren. Many people who had been on their way to shul turned and went back home. In the end, we were nine people who prayed together and went home.

The night passed with tense quiet and no sirens. That is, until 7AM this morning when I got a glimpse of how the rest of the day would look.

We started prayers with three people and I thought, again we won't get a minyan. In the end, more people came and we ended up with a group of 15. During the time of Torah study, at 10AM, there was another siren. We moved quickly and quietly to the shelter (please G-d we'll be getting our new shelters in ten days). I asked the people there to tell stories of how they have been dealing with the sirens of the previous days. One of the women told of an argument she had with her mother about the possibility of going to Tel Aviv for the day on Thursay. She said, "In Tel Aviv, we can have some peace and quiet." But on that day, at 6:30PM, when they were in the middle of an art workshop, there was a siren in Tel Aviv, too.

Others told stories as well. In the end, I told my story of what happened on Thursday, when I returned from visiting my mother who is in a rehabilitation hospital. A siren sounded right when I stood at an intersection between two main roads in Beer Sheva. Following instructions, I immediately began looking for cover. I looked at the four corners of the intersection: On on corner there are two petrol stations (not a recommended place to find cover), on the second corner they are building a mall, on the third is a playground and sports equipment, and on the fourth, very far away with a high fence, was a building. What to do??? Where to run to????

The sound of the siren is piercing, and I realize that I must find cover. But there is none to be found! Suddenly I see a huge truck stop at the intersection. The driver gets out, stands between the wheels, and calls me to stand next to him to take cover. He says to me, "It's better here than outside!" I look at him and thank him. After a few seconds, I say, "What's your name?" He smiles and says, "Pinni". I say, "My name is Mauricio". I figure, in case something happens, I should know who my new friend is.

This is how we live. We are friends in our shared destiny and try to protect one another. We are not a perfect nation and there is a lot to fix. but we are definitely a nation with solidarity, and the mutual help is felt every day anew. It finds expression in many little things that we are experiencing these days.

Pinni, the truck driver who invited me to take cover next to him, is our neighbor. Yesterday, when he saw that my daughter Maya is in advanced stages of pregnancy, he went and brought her challah for Shabbat. Hundreds (I am not exaggerating) of telephone calls and emails from people around the country calling and offering to host people for a few days, people who they don't know, to find some rest from the tensions, they are all a source of tremendous pride for me, to be part of this nation and this country.

Today there is another source of worry: Reservists received their "tzav 8" orders. It's a very small country and the army is the nation itself. Neighbors, friends, acquaintances. On their behalf: Go safely and return home safely!

May the One who makes peace in the heavens bring peace to us and to all of Israel and the entire world, and say Amen.

עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל 
יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵּבֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן:

Rabbi Mauricio Balter,
Congregation Eshel Avraham,
Beer Sheva, Israel

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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