During the last round of hostilities in southern Israel, around a million of me and my fellow-citizens were being rocketed from Gaza.
My local council organized an impromptu, discounted trip to the safari park in Tel Aviv - and me and my girls jumped at the chance to get away from it all for a few hours.
The safari was great. All the animals were on display - even the hippopotami were out of the water and walking around - and I felt calmer and happier than I had done for a couple of days, since the rockets began Friday night.
Once we'd driven round, we had a few hours to get out of the bus, and go and look at all the other animals in the 'zoo' bit. My kids headed straight for the monkeys, and I trailed after them, enjoying the greenery, the great weather, and the relative peace and quiet.
Everywhere you look in the safari, there are big signs posted in multiple languages telling visitors not to the feed the animals. Animals have died from people feeding them things they shouldn't; animals have got sick; animals don't thrive on 'human' food.
Maybe it's because I'm a Brit, but it drives me bonkers when people ignore those signs, and start throwing their snacks at the monkeys. The last time I was at the safari, two years' ago, I got into a heated argument with some Russians who were throwing handfuls of Bamba at their cages.
They kept telling me: 'but the monkeys want it!' - as though they were doing the monkeys a favour and I was being 'mean'.
I know you're meant to judge every one favorably; I know that you're meant to kill yourself finding all the reasons why people really aren't the jerks you think they may actually be. But I just couldn't. I came away with a very strong, very negative, impression about the kind of people who feed the animals at the zoo.
Fast-forward two years, and I found myself back having the same argument. Except this time it wasn't a pair of secular Russians who were feeding the monkeys; it was a very 'frum' family from Israel.
In their favour, they weren't feeding the monkeys Bamba; they were just pulling handfuls of leaves off the nearest plants and trees.
I decided to try and ignore them, but then my daughter came up to me and said: "Ima, it's really not ok what they're doing. There's a big sign that says you shouldn't feed the animals."
There was. Some of the kids were using it as a crutch to lean on to get closer to the monkeys' cage and shove their handfuls of leaves through the bars.
There was no point arguing with little kids, but I thought I might get somewhere with their teenaged sister.
"We're only feeding them leaves," she told me. And carried on doing it. I tried again: "But the sign says not to feed them anything. We don't know what's good for them to eat."
"They want us to feed them!" she told me (yup, that line again.) By this time, my kids and their two friends were taking a very firm interest in developments, and the girl's mother had also appeared, pushing a stroller. For sure, the mom would clarify the issue for her children, and ask them to stop feeding the monkeys.
The woman completely ignored me. Or rather, to be more honest, she looked me up and down to see how I looked; then she looked my kids up and down; then she looked at my kids' friends. When she saw the flip-flops and bare legs of one of them, the switch flicked off in her head, and I could see she'd decided we weren't people she had to listen to, or even respond to. So she didn't.
I was really upset. But my kids were watching me to see how I'd react, so I walked away, and tried to make excuses for them. "Maybe they do a lot of other mitzvoth we don't know about," I said. "Maybe the mum didn't hear me," I said. "Maybe, they're really nice people and we just caught them on a bad day," I said.
But I didn't believe a word of it, and neither did my kids. "Why weren't they keeping the rules? Why didn't the mum stop her kids from doing the 'wrong' thing? Why didn't she talk to you?" they wanted to know. I told them that all of us, every single one of us, have some 'rule' we don't keep. It's just not always so obvious.
The kids got distracted by the penguins, and I went and sat on a bench, to talk to G-d. I realised that I can have quite a negative attitude to 'very frum' types, and I wondered if maybe, I was at fault in the way I'd approached the woman. Maybe I'd been unfriendly and aggressive, and she'd just responded in kind?
I resolved to make more effort, and to try to be as smiley and friendly as I could to the next 'very frum' people we came across. (Clearly, I'm talking about smiling at the women; smiling at the men would be very inappropriate.)
Just then, a 'very frum' family came round the bend, and the wife sat on the bench next to mine. I smiled at her, and did my best to give off 'friendly' vibes - and she glared at me and then completely ignored me.
Ok. Maybe they were also having a bad day. A few minutes later, I tried again with another 'very frum' lady - and I got the same blank stare, then wordless dismissal.
I stopped smiling, and started watching these 'very frum' families. I watched the men smoke - with a scowl - I watched the women hand out cookies - with a very sour look on their faces. I watched the kids, and saw precious few smiles or laughs, even from the small ones.
I've been reading Rav Arush's book on educating with love, and I'm up to the chapter where Rav Arush teaches that if the parents aren't serving Hashem happily, with simcha (joy) - then their kids won't want to have anything to do with yiddishkeit when they grow up.
I looked at all the 'very frum', very sour faces around me - and I prayed from the bottom of my heart that Hashem would help me to serve Him happily.
I realised that the main problem was not that these 'very frum' people were feeding the animals. The main problem was that these 'very frum' people were actually not very nice, to themselves, to each other and also to outsiders.
G-d always shows us the problems that we ourselves need to work on. I can be very serious about my yiddishkeit, and I do expect a lot from my kids, and also from myself.
I realized after that day in the safari, that if I don't serve Hashem with a smile, I am completely missing the point. Better to do things 'wrong' - happily - than to do things 'right' in such a horrible, sour, miserable way.
I desperately want my kids to grow up following Hashem's Torah, and to have the light of Torah in their life. The alternative is a fake, horrible, phoney, plastic 'no-life', and it's taken me years to get away from it, and get it away from.
But if we're only serving Hashem out of habit; or to feel superior to other people; or for some other vested interest or 'reward'; or as an insurance policy - that's also 'no-life'.
If our Yiddishkeit is devoid of joy and happiness and humility - it's not the real deal. And if it's not the real deal, allowing our kids to illegally feed the animals at the zoo will be the least of our problems.