Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Walter's Israel journal (Part 4): An encounter in the shelter

Walter hears the sad story of a young Israeli mother.

Inside the hot, dank and overcrowded shelter, Orly Magen, a harried-looking woman of about 25, sat dejectedly in the corner, holding her two and a half year old son Etai. Asked about her situation, Magen explained that several weeks earlier her husband had been called into the reserves and the office where she is employed as a clerk sent its workers home for the interim of the conflict.

After several days in which she and Etai were forced to take shelter ten or more times a day during incessant air raids, Magen decided to take her toddler to Tel Aviv and stay with acquaintances there until things calmed down in the north. Yet after a week, and a half, Magen felt that she had worn out her welcome, and with her meager bank account dwindling rapidly, she was in no position to move into a hotel. Instead, she drove back to Haifa with Etai, and moved in with her mother in the building in which the Hadassah members took shelter (see previous post).

A few days later, a missile landed nearby, totally demolishing Magen’s car. She has been assured by a government official that she will eventually be reimbursed a large portion of the value of the car, but, for the moment, she has no idea when the money will come. After narrating her story in matter-of-fact fashion, Magen’s voice quavered as she said, “I can’t stand any more of this. Etai is being traumatized by the constant air raids and the boom of the rockets when they hit. The situation is completely unbearable.”

Several of the Hadassah women hugged Magen and placed into Etai’s eager hands presents like stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books. Smiling broadly through her tears, seemingly for the first time in days, Magen profusely thanked the visitors and said, “It means a lot to me that there are Jews from America who are willing to come here despite the dangers and be with us at this moment.”

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