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My Children's Children's Children

By Paula Stern
12/6/2010, 12:00 AM
I had a thought today that made me very sad. In truth, I have always been one to fall apart after the crisis passes. I can't even begin to list the times I've handled something, only to sit down and fall apart when it was done or at least at a point that allowed me to release my emotions.

Moments after they announced today that all the large fires were out and that only smaller ones remained,  I sat in my office and wanted to cry. Mostly it was relief, though there was great sadness...and such feelings of gratitude.

There are so many thanks to give out:

Thank you to the firefighters who came from so many lands - for Bulgaria and Greece and Jordan and  Egypt. Thank you to France, Britain and Cyprus; and to Azerbaijan and Switzerland and Spain and Germany. Thank you to the Russians who came with such incredible resources and confidence. They knew from the start that we would conquer the fire.

Thank you to the Americans - the National Guard and the firefighters from New York. And Australia that is sending advisors and even the Palestinians and the Turks who sent firefighters (although they were quick to assure the world that this was in no way intended as a peace gesture...God forbid).

And thank you to our own firefighters who fought so hard and so long. There was a picture in the New York Times - I'm afraid to copy it for copyright reasons, but it was so special. It showed Israeli firefighters taking a break - about 20 of them, lying on the road in utter exhaustion. What was so special was that each was using another's leg as a pillow. "We did that," Elie said with a smile, "it's more comfortable."

And thank you to the men of ZAKA, who do the unthinkable. They find and prepare bodies for burial, dealing with the most gruesome of tasks in honor and respect.

And thank you to our air force and police, who worked so hard for so many days.

And thank you to the bank that offered an interest-free loan, and the car company that offered free car rentals, and the hotels who opened their doors.

And thank you to God, the protector of Israel - for bringing the rain, that even now is beginning to fall.

And thank you to the Jewish National Fund, who will replant and help us rebuild.

And thank you to all the nations and all the people who prayed for us in these difficult days.

And finally, a closing thought. I have driven those mountains many times, those mountains that now are charred beyond all recognition. I dread going there to see it, though I will in the coming days.

As I spoke with Elie, a thought crossed my mind. It is all gone - those 5 million trees, tens of thousands of acres, dunams...all gone. Even if we replant, and we will...it will take generations to come back to where it was just 5 days ago. There is such pain in that thought; such sadness.

I am trying to focus on our promise, our commitment to the land. From the ashes, will rise another forest, but it will take generations to really come back in all its glory. Such sadness.

I hope my children will tell their grandchildren that they remember the fire and the desolation. But more, I hope they will look about them and say to their children's children - this is as it was when I was a child...tall, green, beautiful and blessed once again.

May God bless the land of Israel and bring forth its healing.