Tue, 08/19/2014 - 2:36pm
By Elena Barr Baum
Read Part 5 here.
Friday morning dawned, and we were no longer under the protective wing of Yad Vashem, what to me felt like, next to the Knesset, the safest place in Israel. We looked at the forecast for Tel Aviv on the Ha’Aretz website. It was SUNNY, WITH A CHANCE OF ROCKETS. I think that headline tipped the scales for us.
After much back and forth – wanting to be tough; wanting to believe that everything would be ok; wanting to stand strong for Israel; and not seem like we were “abandoning it” when it needed us and our economic boost the most - I finally took the advice of my Israeli friends, and listened to my concerned family back at home, and rebooked myself to come back to the US early. The first flight I could get on at that point was late Saturday night. Deb worked out her travel plans, also to leave earlier than scheduled, on Sunday morning. Mickey was scheduled to fly out Friday night, so she, Deb and I did not go to Tel Aviv Friday as originally planned, but took in some of Jerusalem, since we had not seen much but Yad Vashem since we arrived. We had a lovely day, wandering, dining and shopping. Deb and I waved farewell to Mickey’s taxi that evening and sent her off to the airport. (She can tell you about that story!).
Saturday morning Deb and I finished packing, and then did much the same as we had the day before, just relaxing, wandering and shopping in Jerusalem, where much was closed for Shabbat. We went to the Old City and visited the Wall. We bought a few gifts for family and friends. By afternoon the clock was winding down, and we enjoyed a last look at the Old City from the porch of the King David Hotel. The cab to take me to the airport was due to arrive at 7:15, so at 7, I went down to our hotel’s lobby with the What We Carry suitcases, all protectively packed inside other suitcases, to make their trip back home with me. I was putting new identification tags on them, wondering if I’d made the right decision, to leave Israel, not knowing when I’d be back. Then a sadly familiar thing happened: the sirens went off!
I’d left Deb on the 7th floor, with my purse and my phone, but feeling naked without them, I proceeded with the hotel desk staff down the two internal flights of stairs to the safe area, thinking about Deb having to walk all the way down. When I found her a few minutes later, she had my purse AND my phone, and was holding a baby! She told me she’d met a lady struggling on the stairs with a bad knee who was worried that she might drop her son trying to get to the safe room quickly. Anyone who knows Deb knows what came next: she volunteered to bring the boy downstairs if he would leave his Mom. We did our best to keep him smiling till his mother arrived, assisted by many other hotel guests we’d never seen before and would not see again. Like the singing during the siren at Yad Vashem, this is the kind of solidarity and togetherness that the tense situation brings out in people.
Shortly thereafter, we received the “all clear,” and I went back to the 7th floor to retrieve the rest of my belongings to leave. That final siren was my signal that I’d made the right decision. While I knew my place earlier in the week was at the Holocaust Education Conference at Yad Vashem, despite the sirens and rockets, my place now was back at home with my relieved family. I am sad that I was not able to enjoy more of Israel while I was there, but the experience was one I will never forget. As was the forecast.
Elena Barr Baum is the Director of the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. For more information about What We Carry, and the mission of the Holocaust Commission, click here.