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I’ve become afraid of the clouds. Each morning since October 7, I look up and my mood is determined by the clouds. As a volunteer ambulance driver and a senior EMT, my son and daughter-in-law are “connected”, even on Shabbat, even on the holidays. In the morning, they warned us something bad had happened.

I knew that had broken through the border…my son didn’t tell me how many, nor did he tell me about the kidnappings. Perhaps at that early hour, he didn’t yet know. We heard the first siren and distant booms over Jerusalem, indicating rockets had been fired and Iron Dome was responding. My husband and I were worried about our friends in the synagogue and decided to walk up quickly to tell them what was happening.

And as I walked, I looked at the sky. Something was off. The clouds were wrong. On our Jewish Sabbath, we do not carry a phone (except for emergency forces such as my husband, who volunteers for the police, and my son, who volunteers for MADA (Magen David Adom – Israel’s emergency ambulance service). And on the Jewish Sabbath, we do not take pictures but in my mind is the frozen picture of what the sky looked like. It was a combination of streaks – from missiles and planes. Some puffs of white “clouds” that were the location where their missiles of hate were stopped by our life-saving Iron Dome.

Since that day, I have become afraid of the clouds. If they are normal and white and gray and puffy, I smile at the wonder God has put before me. But if they are streaks, I worry what is happening in my land.
These are not God’s clouds, but man’s. They bring back the early hours of October 7. The memory of rushing home after yet another siren and the worry of what was happening.
The memory of my friend, Yael, who called out from her balcony window two floors up, “Paula, Paula what are you doing?”
I told her I was going home and she said, “Do you know what’s happening? They are kidnapping people in the streets. Go home fast, hurry.”
And so I walked faster. I knew they had come on motorcycles across the border, were they already here in my city? When I got home, I told my son and he said, “It’s bad.” And on his face was a seriousness I don’t think I have ever seen before. “Elie, what’s happening?” I asked him.
And he shook his head and said, “it’s really bad.”
I waited tensely till my husband came home and we sat down to a subdued meal. I remember nothing of that day other than the need for it to end, for the darkness to come. Each week on the beautiful Sabbath, I ask it, “why do you have to leave? Stay. Stay forever. I could live the rest of my life with day after day celebrating the Sabbath. No work, no phones, no outside world. Good food. Family. What’s not to love?
And yet on that day, I said the Sabbath with tears and fear, “Go, please go. I need to know what is happening. Please go.”
The calendar on the door from our synagogue tells us what time the Sabbath ends. Typically, it takes time for us to actually let go. My husband comes back from the synagogue. We set up Havdalah – a brief prayer in which we proclaim the separation of the holy day to the mundane work week. We announce with a candle the end of the time during in which we did not cook or use electricity. Go, please, just go.
I didn’t want to wait even a minute and yet, we decided to verify the end of the Sabbath in the most ancient of ways, the true and final determination – the ability to see three stars in the night’s sky.
Outside, I found a star but before my eyes could search for another, the star moved. It was then I realized the sound that I was hearing was the dull rumble of planes, jets, flying high in the sky. I found another star, still determined to find three and rush to open my computer.

The second star did not move, but the third and fourth did. Finally I found two more and having determined the end of Shabbat under the clear skies of Israel, I rushed to open the computer. “At least 100 dead”. I stared at those words and in the hours that passed late into the night and into the early morning, the numbers grew. I went to sleep, exhausted and, I thought, out of tears. Over 700 killed. How was it possible.

I don’t remember what the sky looked like the next morning. I didn’t need the sky to tell me any more of the tragedy that had come to my country.
Day after day, since then, I look at the sky and remember. I once loved the clouds, I’ve worked hard to learn how to paint them. Billowing skies, storms in the distance. I loved painting clouds and yet now, I don’t know.
Now, now I prefer cloud-less skies of blue.

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Paula R. Stern is the co-founder of Retraining4Israel (, a new organization working to help olim make aliyah successful. Paula made aliyah over 30 years ago with her husband and their three children. She lives in Maale Adumim and is often referred to as “A Soldier’s Mother”. She is now a happy wife, mother of five (including two sabras), and grandmother, happily sharing her voice and opinions with others. She is also a senior tech writer and lead training instructor at WritePoint Ltd. ( Please visit her new website: