My father loves me. I always knew he loved me, but I didn’t know how much until I was ten years old.

We were on vacation in England, visiting my maternal grandparents who lived in the north. One warm afternoon, we drove to a small neighboring village. We wandered down the cobbled streets, whose worn stones were gilded by the gentle golden afternoon light, until we came across a clothing store that opened right onto the street. My father saw it first: a leaf-green dress that I would never have chosen myself. My father loves the color green: sea-spray green, lime green, caterpillar green, forest green—really, all greens and any green.

The sound of his voice, flawless English accented warmly with Italian, soothes me“Try it on, sweetie pie,” he urged me with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile dancing on his lips.

A few minutes later I was a little girl of ten years old wrapped in green, cocooned in my father’s nurturing love. I never lost that sense of love and protection.

So it was only natural, after an extremely stressful week with a sick baby, news of a terrorist attack, a probable invasion of Gaza and a possible war in Ashdod, that I would call my father for a chat. I made myself a cup of tea and moved into the laundry room. For ten full minutes I was going to ignore the Friday afternoon bustle in my kitchen and leave my daughters to cook in peace.

My father picks up on the first ring. The sound of his voice, flawless English accented warmly with Italian, soothes me. We discuss the technical details of my upcoming visit back home. We talk about the children, my baby’s eye infection, her ear infection. Then I hear it: a helicopter buzzing like a mad fly. I know that if I go into the garden, I will see it hovering back and forth. Like it did a few scant months ago, when searching for a British tourist who was murdered on a trail close to Mata in the hills surrounding Beit Shemesh. We had hiked along that trail a few times, all the way down into the valley filled with rows of vines and on to the cool streams under the fig trees. I wonder whom they are chasing today. I mentally review and relax a little when I confirm that my husband and all the children are at home. The helicopter buzzes closer. The noise is making me tense.

I think of terrorists and bombs. “Remember the terrorist attack right at the Central Bus Station?” I ask.


“Umm,” I say. I was right there the week before. My eldest daughter, Elisheva, will be going every day next year when she starts college.

“A tourist was killed. So many injured.”

“Elisheva’s friend was in the emergency room with glass splinters in her leg,” I say. She was lucky. Odelia Nechama bat Michal, a fourteen-year-old girl, wasn’t so lucky; she had serious head injuries and was in intensive care.

I hear my father sigh. I too sighed like that—the night Elisheva told me that some of the victims were in shock. Do you know that shock can be worse than physical injuries? she told me. The driver of one of the buses that was next to the bomb can’t speak now. How long will it be till he starts talking again? she asked me. I sighed.

I move onto another incident. I want my father to understand me. “Chani came home from preschool a few days after that attack and told me that there was a war in Ashdod,” I say.

“A war?”

“Missiles landed there . . .”

“There wasn’t a war in Ashdod.”

“I know that.” If there was a war, my husband would have moved all the gas masks from our bedroom, where they are stored, into the reinforced bedroom. He would have told me to put cans of tuna and corn in there. And a can opener. I hurry on, trying to explain why my five-year-old daughter thought there was a war in a city whose name she couldn’t remember. Luckily her brother had also heard of the missiles and could supply the missing name. “You see, all the schools in Ashdod were closed down. Chani’s friend’s brother was sent home from yeshiva. So the children thought . . .”

“Did you tell her there wasn’t a war?” my father interrupts.

I hear that he is annoyed that I can be so out of touch with things“Probably,” I mumble. I don’t remember exactly what I told her. Maybe I told her that there had been only two missiles and no one had died, so she could stop worrying. Like I told all the children two-and-a-half years ago when we were traveling on a back road near Lod and got stuck behind a tractor. It was shortly after an Arab terrorist had plowed his tractor into a bus and other traffic on Jaffa Street, killing three and wounding dozens. “Pass him, Daddy! Pass! Don’t stay near him!” a chorus of voices panicked from the back seats. I told the children not to worry, and I told my husband to pass immediately.

I am stuck on bombs and terrorists. “The Israelis went into Gaza last night,” I say to my father. Another of my information sources, Naomi, my fifteen-year-old, told me. Last night, Thursday, when I should have started on my garlic chicken, rice and apple cake for Shabbat, Naomi told me that a chain of telephone calls had started, and we were being asked to pray for the soldiers. I sat on the couch with my tissues and book of Psalms. I had been battling a tension headache all day. Now it marched into position just above my right eye. Outside it was raining and cold. I thought of eighteen-year-old soldiers marching through the slashing rain into Gaza, and I cried.

“There was no invasion of Gaza,” my father says.

I hear that he is annoyed that I can be so out of touch with things. I wanted to let him into my inner world. To tell him that I cried. I wanted him to try and understand the stress of living like this. To tell me that he understands it must be hard to live with the fear. I want to tell him to cocoon me, like he did when I was ten years old. Isn’t that what fathers are supposed to do? To shield their little girls and keep them away from fear?

But I keep silent, because I know I’m being irrational. Of course my father cannot climb into my mind. Just like I cannot climb into the mind of Odelia Nechama bat Michal. And still I feel the stab of a double-edged sword. My father hasn’t told me that he understands me.

“Well, I better go now. Back into the kitchen. I love you. Love to Mummy. Shabbat Shalom,” I quickly end the call. The pain is keen.

Back in the kitchen, I wonder if I should first wash the dairy dishes that tell of a cheesecake, or the food processor parts, evidence of chopped and sliced salads. As my hands move mechanically over the dairy bowls and spoons, my mind whirls. People are complicated. We have so many needs, so many expectations. So many of them are irrational. So many are unspoken. I move on to the second sink. Here I decide that we are not so complicated after all. It’s quite simple, really: every daughter needs her father’s love. And even if she is sure of that, she still needs his understanding.