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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Kadima! Victory is Yours

Dateline: Jerusalem. Loud knocking at the door and the war command, “Kadima!” (Onward!) awakened Benedetto and me from our winter’s night sleep. A kind soul ensured that we would be awake, taking refuge in a sealed room with absolute strangers, and wearing our stifling gas masks all night long to usher in the beginning of Israel’s Gulf War. It was a rude awakening after a perfectly elegant dinner party for two the night before.

The whole city was under curfew and we were allowed to walk anywhere within a block or so. We made the best of it, as he was scheduled to leave the next day for several months, while I worked on some projects of my own.

The two of us had been married just over ten years. It was a horrific half year, in many ways the best of times and the worst of times. The war stretched on and on, through January, through February. I tried to carry on and accomplish what needed to be done, but daily life was difficult. Until February 28th.

Nineteen years ago today, I was there in Jerusalem when the Gulf War ended. After weeks of running to a designated “sealed room” and strapping on my bulky and utilitarian rubber gas mask as air-raid sirens blared, the miraculous moment was revealed to me by a rather snide and sarcastic comment overheard on the street.

“Hey, idiot,” one teen guy said to another in Hebrew, “haven’t you heard? War’s over.”

He pointed at his peer’s kufsat masicha, the utilitarian cardboard box on a long, black strap that all of us used to carry our gas masks. My own was safely tucked inside a dark canvas bag, the type that most Jerusalemites used to schlep anything from groceries, to books, to gas masks, these days.

The war was over-?! Could it be??? Today was the Festival of Purim, the holiday celebrating Queen Esther’s intercession in Babylon on behalf of the Jewish people who had been sentenced to death by a royal decree. They, instead, won a victory over their enemies.

Little girls dressed as Queen Esther strolled the mid-morning streets. The significance of the war’s end was lost on none of us. Little did we know that another Gulf War would eventually follow, and it, also, would end on Purim.

Only if you have been through the preparation for war, the terror of war, and the aftermath of war, can you understand the all-out sense of relief when it’s over. No more evening curfews as the madman Saddam Hussein preferred to lob his missiles under shroud of darkness. No more stores sold out of heavy plastic sheeting and masking tape as residents sought to secure the seal around doors and windows in case of gas attack. No more lugging heavy glass bottles of water from the supermarket or neighborhood maccaulet, since plastic bottles were thought to be more permeable. No more soaking towels in bleach and stuffing them under door cracks, or running to twist the cannister filter onto the rubber gas mask, tightening the five straps and ensuring that the seal was airtight.

Many were the war days I had walked stone pathways through lush and rain-sodden winter gardens. Giant, fragrant rosemary bushes were interspersed with rich, red geraniums, and my favorite purple anemones and fuchsia cyclamens. Twisted, ancient olive trees marked the way as the sun glistened on wet pavement. There was a holy hush often, as residents stayed close to home. A rainbow stretched across the sky, piercing dark clouds, God’s promise reaching from heaven to earth on Mount Zion.

Even in the midst of battle, there was hope. Our prayers had been heard. We came out in victory. So will you.

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