Shula has a large circle of friends and relatives and she makes it a priority to keep in touch and updated on a regular basis, which is one reason I've felt closer to her than most of my other relatives in Israel. Shula is the one who hosted my friend and me on our free weekends during our ninth grade summer Israel experience. Shula almost always picks my visiting parents up at the airport, even in the middle of the night, and drops them off at our house, miles out of her way. Shula is not religious, does not identify with many aspects of religious observance, and does not keep Shabbat or a kosher home. Yet her closest friend is a religious physician and mother of six who has been her neighbor for twenty years. I have always felt comfortable in her house because she always makes an effort to make me feel comfortable, without it feeling like any effort at all.
Shula loves to keep in touch by email. She prefers to keep it personal, but last year she felt compelled to start sending emails addressed to all of us -- her family and friends -- to keep us updated on the state of her husband, who was diagnosed with a relapse of melanoma that had spread to his brain. Over time Shula's beautifully written group emails arrived with greater and greater frequency, describing in detail their meetings with physicians, this expert and the next, changes in treatment, from chemotherapy to palliative radiation, to the latest drug therapy that would be extremely effective, in theory, but only if her husband's coordination improved enough to swallow it. Last April, the day before Pesach (the Passover holiday), Shula and her sons returned home without their beloved husband and father, who was laid to rest during the week of Pesach, in a small cemetery near their home.
I understand it takes about 90 days for a human being to really digest and accept the loss of a loved one (see the footnote I wrote here). It's now been about 130 since Shula lost her husband, and her mind has since turned to other losses as well. With her permission, I'm including here a translation of her latest group email.
Hello Girlfriends,Last Thursday I was with my friend N. in Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square, in central Tel Aviv), to "celebrate" / mark the birthday of Gilad Shalit. There was a birthday cake on a chair, but the candles weren't lit... A number of good people spoke, Gilad's commanding officer, the head of the NPO Return Our Sons, Yuska Groff,who was once captive and is now a member of the NPO Awake at Night (that is to say, while we sleep, they have nightmares), and many others.The evening's planners told us that for the past several weeks they have sat in the Square every night between 8 and 9 pm, calling for his return home.The evening was moving, and especially sad. It was sad because Gilad still isn't here, and we don't know where he is, and how... even were we to fully summon our powers of imagination we would not come close to understanding how his parents live with this.... it's awful.It was also sad that so few people (around 300) turned up, and all the others just mention how terrible it is and cluck their tongues.It is sad mainly because the night-by-night activities of these youth really don't move anyone.We met a few more friends and thought that we -- mothers, grandmothers, aunts -- must shake people out of their complacency. We thought about organizing a regular Friday evening presence outside the Prime Minister's house.Every Friday, ten of us will station ourselves outside the Prime Minister's residence for two hours. The plans aren't final, and we're open to additional suggestions and ideas. The only thing that's clear is that we need to do something, immediately, before all of our captives return as "gestures" / "measures" / "intensifications" and all those other excuses.So, if you also believe there's a place for action, and not just talk, we'll be meeting to analyze the situation and formulate a plan on Thursday, 4 September at 8 pm at Rabin Square on the corner of Ibn Givriol and King David streets. Please pass this message on to anyone you feel is appropriate. We'll be there, waiting...
Shula later told me she hesitated before sending me this letter, since she knows from experience how hard it is to be a working mother, without taking on all those extra activities. I also wish I could do more here, but I'm realistic, and I believe that for the time being I have enough on my plate, doing "my part" in a different realm. I also know there are many others out there who would love to take on a greater part in this critical fight. And so, my friends, I'm passing Shula's message on to you.
Keep the balance,