On Monday night I celebrated surviving the fire* with a "Se'udat Hoda'ah", a Jewish custom that I had never heard of until I made preparations to attend synagogue on my return to the UK to say "Birkat HaGomel", the blessing of thanksgiving recited at the reading of the Torah by a person delivered from danger. "Se'udat Hoda'ah" is a formal meal acknowledging your gratitude following an occasion where your life was at risk. In historical times, Jewish people would bring an offering to the temple each year on that date, to commemorate the occasion and remind themselves to appreciate life. I cooked a 3 course meal for friends and family members who were connected to or had also been at the village, a few of us spoke and we had some of the gifts and items from the party on the tables.
Last night was both incredibly stressful and very liberating. It felt like I was putting the full stop on the experience but to do so I had to relive it. Benjamin Joshua Reisman prepared a short film of the village in the aftermath of the fire, and it included the place I'd been staying, and the route that I'd run from the flames until I found my aunt, uncle and cousins and we fled towards the exit followed by a wall of fire. I watched it beforehand with my husband and kids, and we were extremely emotional, my sister found it very hard to see too. It was one thing hearing and reading about my experience, and another to see the devastation as I'd described it. I mentioned running down a wooded path with the wind blowing flames along one side. The footage clearly showed the path with trees to one side and ash to the other.
So, while I am being appreciative, I would like to thank my family, friends and all of the strangers who have helped me from the minute I left the burning house until now, whether by listening, writing, sending wishes, rescuing me, accommodating me, feeding me, making me laugh... 2016 may have been a challenging year but there is so much good. I am grateful.