Looking Toward the Heavens
Last night was surreal.
I sat with some of my sisters, my mother, and my daughter in the darkness listening to the reading of Meggilat Eicha. In the distance we could hear rumbling; of warplanes, rockets, and the explosions of the Iron dome.
My daughter was squeezing my hand, I could feel fear making her breath heavy, her sighs long.
As we all sat together, I carefully read the devastatingly painful megillah, searching for signs of the moment I was living in, in the ancient verses.
I found the tragedy in the fact that the citizens of Israel, on Shabbat Chazon and the night and day of Tisha B’aav, were subjected to barrages of rockets. How many of our people spent Shabbat in their bomb shelters? Even in Jerusalem, I had prepared the bomb shelter on Friday, making sure it would be ready should we need to run. We all slept with the windows open, listening for sirens in our sleep.
There’s cognitive dissonance though. Since I have lived in Jerusalem, I have struggled with the reading of Eicha. I do not recognize my city in those words. The Jerusalem I live in is constantly building, growing, and thriving. Tourists have now come back, and the city is thrumming with energy. The country is blossoming, and miracles happen all the time here.
In my daily life, I do not feel the sense of abandonment that the megillah describes.
I look around and see realized prophecy. It feels as if we are living in a time right before our ultimate redemption. This country is filling up with Jews who are making new lives for themselves in the holy land, from all four corners of the earth.
Yet, this morning I had only been awake a few moments when I heard the sound of the Iron Dome blowing up rockets that were on their way from Gaza to towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a few minute drive from my home.
It is hard to describe what it’s like to live under rocket fire, even more so for the communities in close proximity to Gaza.
It is horrible to have that conversation with your children that today will be another day of listening for sirens and potentially running to a bomb shelter. Checking in on friends and family to let them know they aren’t alone. Watching the news and the Red Alert app, sitting tense and ready to run.
But I can’t ignore the miracles that are happening before our eyes. The IDF is reporting that the Iron Dome has had a 97% success rate of intercepting the 200 incoming rockets that were heading for populated areas. There have been 600+ rockets that have been shot at Israel in the last couple of days (at the moment of this writing) in total.
Today on Tisha Baav I am looking to the heavens. Our people have had a long and complicated history; our story of how we were exiled and how we came home.
I am a Jew, raising a Jewish family, living in the hills of Jerusalem. Mourning the past while building a future. Remembering ancient tragedies while living beneath a sky falling with rockets seeking to destroy our nation and our country. In a time of miracles and where the land is blossoming and swelling with our people; a precursor to redemption.
Right now, the air here is thick with tension. This day has always been saturated with history and today is no different.
So while we mourn and reflect on all our losses, brace ourselves and protect our families, we also stand firm in our present. We look with hope toward the future.
I know that we have so much work to do. We have so much to fix in this world. We are in a precarious moment and Tisha Baav presents us an opportunity to do exactly what is needed; to reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we are going.
We need to ask ourselves how we can do better.
We need to make active choices about how we bring about a better future.
We need to heal what’s been broken in our world.
Please join me in praying for the safety of the soldiers and citizens of Israel
May it be the will of the Ribono Shel Olam that Mashiach will come speedily in our days, bringing a full redemption and a time when we know no more sorrow.
Photo credit: Rockets fired by Palestinians toward Israel, in Gaza City, Friday, August 5, 2022. (AP/Fatima Shbair) (Times of Israel)
Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.
She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.
She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.
Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.
Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.