Sunday, May 17, 2015

I was in church 48 years ago today - where were you? Reflections of a giyores on Yom Yerushalayim

Guest Post by Miriam ​Shear

I remember it like it was yesterday although I was only ten years old at the time.

For several weeks there was a buzz in our neighborhood: I remember my mother standing with the neighbor ladies, coffee cups in hand, speaking in worried tones about "What's going to be with little Israel?" Nasser was belligerently telling the world that his army would drive the Jews into the sea. Little Israel was surrounded by blood thirsty enemies who despised not just her settling of the land but her very existence. After all, Hitler had not finished the job. The Arabs were determined to clean up this unfinished business.

I would spend weekends in my Grandmother's little grocery store. More than the candy, I loved being with my Grandmother and observing all the customers who came into her store and spent time talking with my Grandma about anything and everything. Each one had a story. But now, everyone was talking about only one thing: "What's going to be with little Israel?"

My grandmother had a tzedeka can on her counter and asked everyone to donate to "Israel's War Effort". People gave generously.

Most people dropped their coins and bills into the can with a heavy sigh and ominous comments like, "This is probably a waste because there is no chance Israel can win" or "G-d should help them because I don't think all the money in the world is going to help the Jews this time".

My Grandmother, a staunch Catholic who never missed Sunday mass, would chastise them: "Do not underestimate the Jews", she would say. "They have the best General on their side" as she pointed to the sky. "I do not believe G-d brought them back to their land only to lose it again. You watch. These Israelis may just end up driving the Egyptians into the sea."

Some would say, "You're right, Stella" and nod their heads and walk away, the looks on their faces betraying their worry that she was wrong. Others would say, "Now we have to pray harder than ever for Israel. Those who curse them will be cursed and those who bless them will be blessed. It's G-d's promise to the world."

When two nuns came in to collect the charity box for Israel, my Grandmother had me count out the collection and hand the money to the nuns with larger bills, my Grandmother throwing in her own generous donation which she kept hidden in her bra ("so if we get robbed they don't get everything"). The nuns left behind a little Israeli flag to tape to our can and a few cards with pictures of saints and some prayers. My Grandmother asked for more of those charity tin cans to give to other businesses in the area. I would man the store for a few minutes while she ran out and put the cans in other stores.

When I returned to my parents' home, we drove past our church. There was a long line to get in. What happened?

Word was coming in that the war had now started. Israel was under attack fighting for its life. The church doors were flung open 24 hours per day every day of the week so people could come in at any time to pray for Israel. An Israeli flag was hoisted next to the American flag in the sanctuary. The collection basket was passed and overflowed with people's donations to help Israel's war machine.

I remember my mother ironing my father's white shirts (no permanent press in those days) while intensely watching TV to pick up the latest news on the developments. Walter Cronkite in his usual somber tones only added to the dreary mood. My mother kept telling us kids to "pray harder and be nicer" so that G-d will help Israel.

There was one thing that the priest said that I'll never forget. As the collection basket was being passed he said: "Everyone should have in mind that the money you are donating is holy money for a holy people in a holy land. With G-d's help, this money will be used to build and strengthen Israel to fulfill the prophet's words that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and that the Jews will once again return to her land from the four corners of the world."

At the time, I remember thinking to myself: "How I wish I could some day live in the holy land."

Little did I know that one day I would live in the very land that Israel conquered in those 6 days. Not only me but my children too. I had no inkling that one day I would sit in Kraft Stadium and watch the words of the prophet coming to life as my son plays football for the Jerusalem Team and the National Team: "And you shall hear the laughter of children in the streets of Jerusalem".

Even farther removed from any thought whatsoever was that I would have a daughter who would be an IDF combat soldier guarding the very land that Israel was to acquire in this Six Day War. As I write these words here today she stands doing shmira in Jericho, was doing shmira in the Gush 2 months ago and before that the border with Gaza - the very holy land that Israel regained while I was a little 10 year old child praying in church for Israel's victory.

Today I live here, breathe the air "that makes one wise" (Kiddushin), walk in the steps of the Avot, pray at the Kotel, work, learn, and bring others.

And yes, I also run to bomb shelters when the missiles are flying, call my kids at midnight to warn them to be alert at bus and train stops against terrorists ramming their cars into pedestrians, reprimand Jewish kids to give up their seats for the elderly on buses, occasionally remind a few Chareidim that women do NOT have to sit in the back of the bus, hand a near naked secular woman my scarf to cover up because she forgot to look in the mirror before she walked out of her house that morning, and argue with taxi drivers who think my American accent makes me a prime target to be ripped off.

No, life is not perfect here by any means. But it's OURS. Every aggravation, every worry is one more building block in building and securing our beloved Eretz Yisrael. It's my personal contribution, my own "half shekel" donation to eventually bring the geula, the redemption, the coming of Moshiach and the building of our Holy Temple.

From Church to the Kotel . . . . .in only 41 years. And so I praise G-d with all my heart and soul, with every fabric of my being, that He has blessed my children and I to live here in Eretz Yisrael.



  1. I love your recounting of the universal feeling for Israel in 1967. How far, sadly, we have come from there in the half-century since. We still have friends, but so many enemies. אין לנו להשען אלא על אבינו שבשמים

  2. Great story! She has tremendous merit.

  3. Read Exodus 32; Deuteronomy 27 and 28!

    You have no one to blame but yourselves - stiffnecked & disobedient.


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