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Still smitten

Posted By Rebecca Hagelin On 11/26/2001 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

When I close my eyes, it takes but a moment to see him standing on the
boardwalk along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. I can still feel the
heart-pounding, inexplicable soulful attraction that took me by surprise
when I met him 18 years ago.

He was the most handsome man I had ever seen, and yet, there was something more. When I got within clear view of his sparkling blue eyes, I felt a current run through me, and I knew that our meeting was far beyond chance.

I was on the trip of a lifetime to Israel, along with nine other politically active co-eds from around the U.S. The North American Jewish Students Network sponsored 10 college-aged Democrats and Republicans on an all-expense paid 10-day trip to the Holy Land.

We met with members of the Knesset, toured Judea and Samaria, traveled through many small biblical towns and even had a private audience with Prime Minister Menachem Begin. But the most important person I met was a young United States naval lieutenant who “just happened” to be on the same stretch of beach as I, during the same five-minute period, in a country halfway around the world.

We spoke briefly. Suddenly embarrassed that I had introduced myself, I said
goodbye and ran back to the water’s edge. Hoping he was still watching from
the boardwalk, I did what any self-respecting young woman in my situation
would do:

I set a trap.

Still in my sundress from touring through the hot,
dusty July summer day, I took off my shoes, and strolled through the gentle
surf. Every so often I would daintily pick up a small pebble and toss it
into the waves.

The scene beyond me was majestic: the last sliver of the
perfect red-orange ball of the setting sun had just disappeared on the
horizon, and the deep blues and purples of dusk reflected off the sea. In
the distance, the silhouette of a ship could be seen with its lights seeming
to twinkle as the last rays of daylight played across the water’s surface.

(Months later when he came to see me in Washington, D.C., he said, “I’ll
never forget the way you looked the first night I saw you. You carried
yourself so well. The sun was setting behind you and there was a ship on the
horizon whose lights were just coming on.” Bingo!)

Back in Israel, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. How unlike me to be so
enamored with someone I didn’t know. I was still thinking about him the
next evening, when, walking through the pavilion located on the beach in Tel
Aviv, I heard someone call my name. It was he.

Several naval officers and a couple of people from my group ended up going
to the movies that night. Afterwards, everyone wanted to go bar hopping –
everyone but us. He suggested we go for a walk instead.

We ended up
walking and talking for several hours, and by the end of the evening I knew
he was the man of my dreams. He spoke of faith, his parents and siblings,
and his sense of adventure. I learned he was a graduate of the U.S. Naval
Academy, and that he had always, even as a child, envisioned going to school
there. He was a perfect gentleman with a soft laugh and a warm, gentle
voice. As we said our “goodbyes” he asked for my address: “You’re a rare
woman. I want to keep in touch.”

I was smitten.

And keep in touch he did. The lost art of letter writing was not lost for
him – he wrote moving, detailed accounts of his days at sea. The most
profound letter described the scene from his ship anchored just offshore in
the hours following the terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in
Lebanon:

    … the stack of black body bags on nearby USS Iwo Jima grows larger
    every hour.

In light of the terrorism of recent days, plotted by some of the very same evil people, his words of so many years ago echo eerily through my mind.

He returned to the States that Thanksgiving, and we were wed the next year,
in 1984, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. This past Saturday we
celebrated 17 years of marriage. He is my handsome prince, my knight in
shining armor and my very best friend. He is a wonderful father to our
three children, and a very patient and loving husband. I would be
desperately in love with this man even if I had met him in line at McDonald’s.
God blessed me beyond belief when He brought us together in the most
romantic setting possible.

Happy Anniversary, Darling. After all these years, I’m still smitten.


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