Then and now

Then and now

We used to feel a disconnect when we came back to Israel. Our American lives were temporarily put on hold and New Jersey felt, and was, very far away — across Europe, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. These days, we don’t even disconnect on the plane. The small charge for wi-fi is well worth it to stay in touch with both loved ones and world affairs. And this is not even really new anymore. With recent rumors of supersonic planes returning to the air, time spent aloft will be so reduced that flying to Israel from New Jersey may eventually be like a trip to Long Island in traffic. The disconnect sliver will disconnect entirely.

Israel made gigantic leaps in technology to reach this point. Now little kids wander around with cell phones that do everything except take out the garbage. In the ’70s, when we spent huge blocks of time here, many didn’t have any phones at all, house phones included. Those were the romanticized days of visiting someone on a whim, merely hoping they might be home, and welcoming. Everyone always had a cake stored somewhere just for those occasions. Those were different times. Those were the times when a significant amount of our time here was spent at a public phone, waiting in line, for a line, to place a call to America to remain in touch with our parents or children. When my sister moved into her new Herzliya home, somewhere in the ’70s, the nearest phone that her neighborhood could use was an important colonel’s private line. This was for extreme emergency use only. You wouldn’t use that number for a chat.

Today, of course, phones are ubiquitous and casual visits less so. And the world seems a smaller place. We are tuned in to our New Jersey home and news from abroad as if we were there.

Now, in early spring 2024, we know everything that we might know if we were at home in West Orange. And some of it is disturbing. Take, for instance, NBC’s hiring, and subsequent un-hiring, of Ronna McDaniel. I have just promised myself that I will never again knowingly watch NBC. I doubt that there’s much more that I personally can do about that situation, but I do normally watch NBC every morning at 6 a.m. when I’m in New Jersey, an activity from which I can, and will, easily switch to one of the competing stations.

Their hiring of Ms. McDaniel felt like a terrible betrayal to me. Her admissions that she would now be speaking honestly for herself fell like acid rain. In other words, she was proffering the company line when she represented Trump’s election loss as being truthful reporting, but now that she has been fired, it’s no longer necessary to spew the lies. Her truth changed. Mine hasn’t. After all, Ronna is not an actress in a movie. Her job was to portray her independent opinions. But once Trump fired her, she was no longer responsible for speaking on his behalf. She was for sale to the highest bidder, which turned out to be NBC. She’s not a prostitute — but this sounds like prostitution to me.

The Republican revisionist history is so overt, consistent, and without merit that it is truly shocking, starting with Trump and working its way across the party, with nary an objection, except for a minuscule few, through members of the Congress and lesser party members throughout the nation. The Republicans need to know that truth doesn’t change. Truth is truth. NBC needs to learn that as well. I think Democrats could create a powerful TV ad by playing leading Republicans quoting their disdain for Trump after the assault on the Capitol, and then showing their present day positions and their justification of the criminal siege.

What happened to change the opinions? Fear. Cowardice. Hunger for power. Lack of integrity. All of the above! They may know why Trump puts so much fear into them, but I certainly don’t. Nonetheless, it’s quite obvious that much of the leadership of this country lives in constant fear of the revenge of Donald Trump, a foolish and pompous lying man.

My parents were never strict disciplinarians. There was only one issue that my sister and I were ever seriously punished for, and that was lying. We were brought up to be truthful always and to discern when lies were being told by others. That early training has stood the test of time. Practically nothing is as unforgivable to me as deliberate lies. Obfuscating the truth makes you untrustworthy. The Republicans fall into that category en masse. And so does Ronna. It was, and is, a cringeworthy moment for NBC. I’m changing channels!

I know from cringeworthy moments.

Reminiscing about our old days in Israel and the memories that rush forward, and backward, to a simpler age (or not) returns me to Purim in 1974. I had already learned that kids in Israeli schools were generally more casually dressed than their U.S. cousins. I bore that in mind when thinking of costumes for the two younger kids who were then both in gan, nursery school. My instincts were to buy them costumes in Mashbir, then a large department store on Jerusalem’s King George Street, a Broadway-ish thoroughfare. I self-thwarted those notions so they would fit in with their classmates. Modest costumes were the goal and I figured it all out. I would not again err by dressing them more expensively than their classmates. They both had really cute flannel clown pajamas and they would be clowns for Purim. Neither one of them, each now middle-aged, will ever let me forget the humiliation of that day.

They dressed in excitement. Lots of rouge on their cheeks and a big round pillow tucked into their pajama bottoms to round them out, provided the foundations for their outfits. I thought they looked adorable and they both left for gan happy and joyful. Somewhere I have pictures of that moment in time, pictures that precede the misery that followed.

Mid-morning on Purim day, parents were invited to a party at the gan. The kids were already well integrated into the class and starting to speak perfectly unaccented Hebrew. They were welcomed by their teachers and happy. I arrived in the gan with no warning of the imminent disaster. Caused by me!

I sat down on one of the tiny chairs and saw immediately that there was a problem. I was surrounded by little kids, their classmates, perfectly outfitted as soldiers, doctors, police, and firefighters, all costumes professionally made, elaborate, expensive, and fitting perfectly. Two little children only, both mine, stood out. These were the two in their pajamas. It was as if you went to a wedding in your bathrobe. Never to be forgotten. And no way out either. If you arrived in your clown pajamas, no matter the humiliation, you left in them. Guys, better late than never: I apologize!

That tradition of buying expensive costumes for Purim remains until this day, decades later. Of course soldier costumes were popular. As they should be. Kids idealize their soldiers and aspire to be like them. For parents and grandparents this romantic love of chayalim is a double-edged sword. They are our heroes, including our grandson Aaron, of whose service we are incredibly proud. But during wartime a soldier in the family is a time shared between pride and terror. The terrifying knock on the door is a heartwrenching nightmare. Celebrations such as weddings and bar mitzvahs tread a fine line, as you can imagine. Too much joy is insensitive. Not enough is taking the happiness from one of life’s cemented memories.

We went to a perfect bar mitzvah on Purim day. The group of 13-year-old guests, friends of our excited grandnephew, the bar mitzvah Aviv, himself a grandson of a long serving chayal, Sabba Zeev z”l, and son of another, Abba Ilan, all know, and actually yearn for their own opportunities to serve in the army. But watching these boys grow is an example of life in Israel. In five years all of them will be soldiers. That was and always is on everyone’s minds.

May Israel know peace. Please!

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of five. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was! She welcomes email at

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