There was something surreal the way we were told when it was going to hit, how to prepare, predictions of the upcoming disaster. And despite the warnings, nothing could be done to stop it.
I could have written this opening paragraph about any number of incidents that I’ve experienced living in Israel. For example, the first Gulf War when the world counted down to Operation Desert Storm. We had our gas masks ready and prepared our sealed rooms. An ultimatum was made and we were ready for war. But I wrote this opening paragraph with Hurricane Sandy in mind.
It was a strange sensation for me to be so concerned for you who live in South Jersey and to be glued to the computer watching the weather channel for any late breaking news or updates. Usually you are watching the live updates from disasters in Israel, not the other way around. I couldn’t get enough information. I was concerned and wanted to know what was happening 7,000 miles away.
I called my mother several times to make sure she was prepared. My wife called her father who lives in Central Jersey. Relatives who live in Oceanport had shifted their belongings off the floor and gone to stay with my father-in-law expecting their house to be flooded.
Once the storm hit, we watched images of the devastation along the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I called my friend, Rabbi Aaron Gaber of Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor. “We’re fine,” he told me. They had lost power and had some water in their family room, but had not evacuated and were well. He appreciated the call.
My mother told me she felt like she had been in a cocoon. All around her people had been affected, but she did not lose power nor phone service and, except for not being able to go out, was unaffected.
I started to understand how my friends in America feel when there is a bombing in Jerusalem. How could it possibly be that I am unaffected and I heard about it on the news just like them?
When I heard that Sandy hit Atlantic City I called my mom, afraid I would not be able to reach her because the phone lines would be down. She told me that it was wet outside, but that it wasn’t even really raining yet. How could that be, I wondered, it’s a hurricane! The worst storm to hit New Jersey! People are being evacuated! You can’t find a generator or bottled water in the stores! How could the news I was hearing be so different than what my mother was experiencing?
I spoke to a client of mine who told me that her friends had parked their car in their driveway in West Orange and less than five minutes after they got out, a large tree fell on their car, smashing it.
Pictures started to be posted on Facebook showing the devastation, yet my mother was fine, my father-in-law was fine. The relatives in Oceanport lost power for a week. My sister had to work from home because her office was without power. Nothing catastrophic had happened to my friends or family.
I’ve lived in Israel through several wars and hundreds of terrorists attacks. Unfortunately I can’t say that I haven’t known people who have been killed by acts of terror. I have. After living in Jerusalem for so long, it is hard not to walk around with the memories of past events haunting you.
However, just as you restore power and are fixing the damage in your community from this latest disaster, in Israel we rebuild and move on as well.
Soon Sandy will be a memory and recorded in the meteorological record books. This does not mean that the losses will be any easier or that we will not have learned lessons or suffered from the storm’s violence, but despite all of this, life goes on.
During this time, in the aftermath of the storm, my prayers are with those of you who suffered losses during Hurricane Sandy. I sincerely hope that the next time we predict imminent violence and destruction, be it natural or of the hands of man, that we will find a way to work together so that it can be averted.