Smadar Shir
Inside the sealed room
Smadar Shir recalls moving back to Israel from the US just in time for the Gulf War
After 10 years in Minnesota, the land of serene lakes, we decided to return to Israel.


We, I confess, was actually me. I informed my husband that our eldest daughter will begin the first grade in the Holy Land, and he surrendered, but stretched the rope a little bit more to the date when he was scheduled to take part in a tender for a workplace. At the end of December 1990, we got off the plane with three girls born in Minneapolis and a Canaanite dog who learned how to bark in English in the fields of snow – and a courteous stewardess presented us with gas masks.


What's this? We wondered in horror.


"Just in case…" was the answer. "Saddam is threatening, but relax, it's not serious."


Less than three weeks later, the siren echoed. With trembling hands I attached the pig-headed masks to the princesses' noses. "Shir Layakinton" ("a song for the hyacinth") was played on the radio time and again, and my three daughters, who couldn’t speak a word of Hebrew, hanged on to me and screamed, "We want home!"


This is our home, I tried to explain, but they – one redhead, one blonde and one brunette – nodded their heads in a unified movement and shouted unanimously, "We want home." Tears rolled down their faces as my husband, kneeling under the rolls of scotch tape, gave me a mute look in which I could read the questions: Why did you insist that we bring the girls to Israel? To stick them inside a bomb shelter?


I held my tongue that night and the next day as well, as an NBC TV crew found its way into our house looking for American citizens caught into the war.


"Why don’t you return home?" the interviewer asked me, and the camera lights were not what made my body like it was soaked in cold sweat.


"I'm an Israeli," I stuttered and my teeth chattered, "and our home is here."


"You're an Israeli," he protested, "but your daughters are born Americans. What will you gain by putting their lives in danger?"


"Nothing," I was forced to admit, "but I decided to stay, and they, having no other choice, will stay with me."


"Did you ask for their permission, or are you putting their lives in danger on your own responsibility?" he probed.


"I didn’t ask for permission," I collapsed, "but I hope some day they'll forgive me for these decisions."


Years have passed, and they – one redhead, one blonde and one brunette – have never declared, "Mom, we have forgiven you," because there was no need for words. I knew that Israel became their home when they took a shore-to-shore-voyage with the scouts, and when they put on their uniform and cried 'I swear' at the end of the officers' course.


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