Bombings remind ex-Oaklander dead could have been any of us

The phone rings. My daughter, calling from her college dorm in New York. She can't sleep. She's had a terrifying dream about our family going into a concentration camp. In the dream, she and her sister take refuge in the attic of friends in Berkeley. Her sister goes outside and is killed.

I reassure my firstborn that we are all well; it is just a dream. I urge her to go to morning services, telling her where to look in the siddur for the prayer that ameliorates a bad dream. I suggest opening the window, allowing the nightmare to dissipate.

Two hours later, the phone rings again. My middle daughter. She is in town, around the corner from last Thursday's triple suicide bombing. A lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is she safe? She had just left the street where the bombs exploded. Her friends are still there. She is worried. Her father asks her to breathe deeply, to tell him exactly where she is, to walk away from the area and meet him at a nearby hotel. He will come to pick her up.

I stand in the corner of the living room, stringing freshly laundered curtains onto the rod, hanging them in the window to dry. The fabric sticks to the hardware. I keep working at it, while listening to the conversation between my husband and our daughter. My fingers pleat the material in slow motion, with a will of their own. My life will not be disrupted by this, they seem to say.

The phone rings. The mother of my daughter's best friend. Where is her daughter? She hasn't heard. She must be dead. The other mother is hysterical. Why has my daughter called home and hers hasn't? They had been in town together. Perhaps the line is busy, I suggest, or she is attending to the injured, or there is no phone where she is.

We turn on the television. This is not some other place, this is here, where we live. This is Jerusalem, the City of our Dreams. The mythical City of Peace, and of blood. We are on the front lines now, and it is terrifying. There's Noam, my daughter's friend, being taken into an ambulance. Looks like a foot injury.

The phone rings. Dori's mother again. Her daughter just walked in. She had been helping the injured, tried to call, couldn't get through.

Back to the television. One girl has died of her injuries. It could have been my daughter. Later we find out. The girl, 14-year-old Yael Botwin, moved here from Los Angeles, lived in our neighborhood and attended my daughter's school. Her father died recently, leaving three children. She had just started ninth grade and had gone to buy a notebook for school.

After seven hours of surgery to remove shrapnel, bandage the burns and fix metal plates to heal his broken bones, good news. No organs were punctured. Noam will be OK.

One of the best things about making aliyah from suburban America was an end to carpooling. Kids in Israel have tremendous freedom and can get everywhere on their own. After the bus bombings last winter, a group of mothers sit discussing whether to allow our children to take public buses.

"My daughter could have been on that bus," Debby says. "She had to be at school early for a field trip. If she feels comfortable taking buses, I won't stop her. Surely it isn't her destiny to be blown up on a bus on her way to school."

Was my daughter's nightmare a premonition that her sister was in danger today? An hour before the Rabin assassination, we got a similar call from her. "I just know something terrible is about to happen," she wept, then called us later to ask, "Is it true?"

Enemies of peace will stop at nothing to torpedo the process. They think that suicide bombs will get them into their kind of heaven. They don't care who gets hurt in the process. Our children, out on a sunny afternoon, are in danger.

The phone rings, and rings. Friends call from across town and from all over the world. Are we OK? I overhear my daughter. Should she go to the funeral? She didn't really know the girl. She doesn't want to face the raw open wound of a grave with a girl who could have been her inside it.

I had thought that Madeleine Albright's visit would mean no terrorist acts last week. I was wrong. Are we OK? I don't know. We are sad and shaken. It could have been any of us, any of our children.

The mood on the street is somber, numbed, anxious. The radio broadcasts sad music between news updates and hospital emergency numbers.

To mark our 21st wedding anniversary, our youngest daughter has left a note on the bed: "Dear Mommy and Daddy, Happy Anniversary! Have a very happy and long life together. Always and forever. Love, Avi."

The greeting card, in bold colors adorned with hearts and teddy bears, snuggles into my heart.

The neighbors gather to talk. Endlessly. With no resolution. Trying to make some sense of this. We brought our American ideals to Israel: democracy, pluralism, tolerance, coexistence — never dreaming our children would be on the front lines. How do we protect them? Is it enough to pray for peace?

Noam's mother, Elana Rozenman, when not at Hadassah Hospital caring for her son, has organized a grassroots group, Women Shaping the Future. They will meet on Ben Yehuda Street at the cafe her son was passing when two bombs shattered his leg, pierced him with shrapnel and burned him last Thursday. Elana's vision of the new Jerusalem is a place where all people can live and worship freely, where all children can walk the streets without fear.