Loraine Joy | Community Columnist
Sirens wail in northern Israel. You have 15 seconds to get to the bomb shelter in the basement before the first bombs hit. You have practiced this scenario over and over hoping it never happens. You have “played this game” with your special needs students at the school where you teach. Students attend from all parts of Israel: Jewish, Muslim, Christian students with varying degrees of intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. Students lovingly taught by dedicated teachers and staff regardless of race, nationality, or religion.
Only now it’s real. You can’t use the elevators, so you help carry students in wheelchairs down the two flights of stairs into the basement. Frantically running back up those stairs to carry down more wheelchairs, to guide the disoriented, to give a helping hand amid the shouting, the horrific noise of bombs hitting concrete, glass shattering, children crying, smoke suffocating, and debris flying. Once sheltered, you count to be sure staff and students are all present. Then the cell phone calls to frantic parents who cannot drive into the area because of the air raid. Holding your children close who are confused and terrified. Waiting two days for the shelling to stop, the sirens to be silenced, the dust to settle, and help to arrive.
June 2008, as I toured this area in northern Israel and met the principal and teachers of this heroic school under daily threat of Katusha rockets, I experienced first hand the shelled buildings, where I could throw a basketball through the pockmarked holes in the wall. I saw the toys, school books, sweaters, shoes, backpacks, school papers, and notebooks in chaotic disarray on the dust-covered floor which cannot be removed because the building had not yet been cleared for habitation, nor deemed safe to clean.
In the midst of all this drama, the Principal showed me the Student Closet. It was the only room in a two-story school that had gone unscathed. A neat row of sweaters on hooks and three shelves filled with the Korans, Bibles, and Tanakhs of the students. There they were side by side unharmed. When the students saw this closet, they remarked, “It’s a miracle. God spared this closet to remind us that it is possible for the people to live together in harmony.” The children still believed in miracles. This was their Closet of Hope. ”■
— Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at email@example.com.