October 15, 2019

My sister Sarah

I live in Israel, seven hours ahead of New York. Last week, when my sister Sarah Silverman performed in Manhattan at Carnegie Hall, I opened my eyes every hour or two, and counted backwards. The last time I woke it was 2 a.m. Hmmm… 7 p.m. in New York. She must be doing a sound check. Or maybe getting dressed. I could picture her outfit, because before I went to bed we spoke on the phone, and she e-mailed me a picture. Did I think it was too casual?

My husband and I live with our five children on Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Desert — where biblical prophets spoke out against the sins and hypocrisies of the time. As I lay in my little house under the expansive black sky dotted with bright stars, Sarah prepared to stand under bright lights in front of thousands of people at Carnegie Hall. As I slept in the desert, my baby sister was on a stage. Such distance. Such contrast. Yet our connection to one another runs deep. For me, these are moments of God. Two seemingly opposing realities — separation and intimacy — co-existing, each fully.

There are many times each week that I think about what my three sisters are doing. I count backwards and imagine where they are at the moment. I’m on kitchen duty — pulling clean plates off the dishwasher belt after dinner in the dining hall, stacking them as quickly as I can. Counting backwards 10 hours to Los Angeles. Maybe all three are having breakfast at Kings Road Cafe? Maybe Laura, an actress, and Sarah are on the set. Maybe Jodyne, a writer and producer, is at Starbucks, writing on her Mac laptop. I’m watching my preschoolers learning Israeli dances, my heart filled to bursting. Count back 10 hours … 11 p.m. Maybe they’re going to sleep. Maybe out with friends.

When our daily lives somehow intersect — phone, e-mail, Skype — I am happy. Lately, I’ve heard my sisters’ names spoken in my workplace here, on Ketura. Sarah and Laura are hosting a fundraiser for The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies — which is on our kibbutz — and where my office is located. The institute brings together Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli, North American and other students for a