Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keeping focused -- the Zatloffs

[moderator] The Zatloffs and several of their six children have chosen to remain in Tzfat and assist. Schnuer is working with the Livnot volunteer program.


Dear family and friends,
Shalom to everyone! It's been a while since my last missive. I was sick with fever and flu for a few days and rested as much as possible. I didn't go out volunteering for three days but yesterday, Sunday, I returned to the job. It's amazing. I haven't owned a car in about 13 years and in the past two weeks I've driven old ones new ones, vans and compacts. They're cutting down on meal recipients and slowly want to limit most meals to seniors who are alone and without help or families in great need. The city wants to gradually encourage people to return to some sort of "normal" living, meaning shopping and cooking at home more. Some of the shelters have cooking facilities so people inside have prepared food there but these kinds of shelters are exceptions rather than the rule. Today we spent more time in each home, assessing each situation. We needed to ascertain who needs social services, who is more independent, who needs meals, cleaning help or who needs volunteers to visit them during the morning hours. Livnot volunteers ( the organization I'm working with) engage in many activities during the morning hours, such as visiting people, cleaning homes or driving people to doctors or to the hospital. One older man lives alone and is driven by Livnot volunteers three times a week to the hospital for dialysis treatment.

We're still experiencing rocket barrages in our area, including Zfat, which are mainly during the day and hardly ever at night. Many people have been writing and inquiring as to how we cope with the situation. I've been trying to analyze my own reactions as well as those of others. I find that when I'm focused on a specific activity or goal then I react with more calm, determination and inner strength. For example, there is a tendency at times to be "anticipating" a rocket attack, and such anticipation, even on a small scale, is enough to cause tiredness and differents degrees of "burn-out". However, when I'm driving, even though I dread the thought of an attack, my goal is delivering those meals and helping those people and Nasrallah and his cohorts can go to hell. (Hell is too good for them, actually) I drive along, and if I hear a siren I simply stop on the side of the road and we find shelter. Immediately afterwards we're back on the road. My reactions and thoughts are calm and calculated. I have a mission to accomplish.
Our neighbors the Smolenskys, close friends of ours, have all their children and grandchildren in America. They manage, along with several others, a very essential and important community social service project for needy families in Zfat. They receive donations mainly from abroad. The organization, Lev U'Neshama, (means Heart and Soul) aids large families with weekly or monthly food deliveries of basic staples, provides financial help for dental work, eyeglasses and shoes for children. They are focused all the time. They are busy and goal oriented. When sirens go off, they simply stop what they're doing, go into their inner closed off room, wait for the sirens to stop, and then proceed with whatever planning, mailings or computer work they were involved in. Another friend of ours, Chana Besser, who also teaches high school with me, keeps up with local, national and community news and sends e-mailings to a long list of people with information, articles and personal stories written by others. Miriam, for example, is busy at home, looking in on neighbors, watching the kids when I'm out, or on the phone with friends and family who want information about us and the situation. She also keeps contact with her friends who stayed in Zfat, and everyone receives support, inner strength and spiritual revitalization from each other. Last week I saw a friend whom I pray with in my synagogue. I went to his home one night, and over ice cold beer we studied some texts of the weekly Torah portion, and also spoke openly about personal feelings, thoughts and experiences connected with the present situation. I felt more spiritually strengthened and calmer inside. I was ready to tackle another day.
Of course, there are times when the "wear and tear" becomes heavy and overbearing, and we reconsider whether we should remain in Zfat with the younger children or find some temporary haven from the sirens, rockets, a half deserted city and the need to remain in close promity of our home except for shopping or going to the synagogue, etc.

Another phenomenon of "wear and tear" which is affecting many of us can be called "Sirens on the Mind" syndrome. Whereas some people have what's known as "ringing in the ears", many of us here have "sirens in ears", sirens going off in the mind even when they are not really sounding. I could be laying down, sitting in the car or in a chair and I sometimes "hear" the sounds of sirens. Sometimes I check if something is really happening. It's eerie at times and you just want the "inner siren" to turn off. I was in the synagogue this past Shabbat, and somebody moved a table with metal legs and the scraping noise on the floor caused many of us to turn suddenly because it sounded similar to the metal-scaping high pitched explosive sound the Katyshua makes when it explodes.

So far, my younger children are mostly calm. They have their friends across the way, their DVDs, computer, books and games. The shelter is under the building, and they sometimes play there. For them the sirens means an "interruption", albeit as times a very fearful one, but they have a structured daily schedule in familiar surroundings. This gives them a feeling a some stability and security.

People keep writing what they can do for us in Israel. I suggest increasing prayer and especially Tzeddakah, charity. The organization I mentioned above for example, Lev U'Neshama, has a website. It is
http://www.levuneshama.org/. Livnot also has a website which I don't have on me now but I'll try to include in my next letter.

We are ALL in this together, people united in their efforts to survive, encourage and overcome the forces of evil which are trying to destroy us personally and the world we live in.
Thank you all so much for writing us, it is heartening to receive even a few words of encouragement, love and concern.

May G-d protect us and bless us and may He send us immediate redemption!!!

Sincerely and with love,
The Zatloffs of Zfat
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