I came on aliyah 21 years ago from England straight after high school, a passionate Zionist. I am now married with four beautiful children, thank God, and am more committed than ever to staying here.
These past few weeks have been very painful for the Jewish people. Every day there were multiple terrorist attacks, and each hourly news report began with the names and times of the funerals of citizens whose lives were cut short by Arab terror.
For the fifth time today, I heard a conversation that started like this: "My parents called up from New York-London-Montreal and asked us to come back for a few months. What do I tell them?"
I don't feel I have to justify choosing to live and remain in Israel during these painful times. But I want to share some thoughts about why I chose to move to Israel and why, despite the fact that our day-to-day existence has become very stressful, I will never leave my land.
IN LOVE WITH THE LAND
I decided to live in Eretz Yisrael, the Promised Land, the Holy Land, the one tiny sliver of land on the planet, where I can fully express my Jewishness from a young age. I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who came to England on the last Kindertransport, and soon after received the ashes of his parents in a little box via the Red Cross.
I was a girl of 12 when I first came to visit Israel and totally fell in love with the country's innate beauty and the feeling of breathing and living a fully integrated Jewish life: A country where the policemen, the bank clerks, the newspaper delivery people were all Jewish. A country where Jewish soldiers protect its citizens with pride. My very own Jewish country where Jewish holidays are national holidays. A country where my family and I aren't even aware when Christmas or Easter come and go. A country where I feel I belong through good times and bad times. A country where I really feel God's presence in a 101 different ways.
I fell in love with the country's innate beauty and the feeling of living a fully integrated Jewish life
For the first time ever in 2,000 years of Jewish history, I felt our generation could choose to build our home without being uprooted by pogroms, Nazis, or Stalins. My husband and I can begin the first of many generations in our Holy Land.
I feel it is a tremendous privilege to be living here now during these times. I feel a sense of pride every time my husband dons his green uniform and goes off for three weeks at a time to do his reserve duty, even though I know it takes its toll on the family, and the dangers involved.
Here in Israel, we are not reading Jewish history books or newspaper reports about what's happening to My People over there. We are playing a part in these momentous times by making a difference, a contribution. And just living here makes that difference.
Yes, we here in Israel are also suffering from an economic recession. We earn less, we eat out at restaurants less, we can't afford to travel abroad or buy our kids Harry Potter accessories. But I feel what we gain by living here, far outweighs the material pleasures we forego. In the Diaspora, you feel close to your immediate family, your circle of friends, and at best, belong to a local community or synagogue. Here we feel that we are part of a large extended family called Am Yisrael, the Jewish people.
Have you ever paid a condolence call or gone to a funeral of someone you didn't know personally?
Let me give an example: When the news reports of "5 Israelis killed in terror attack," I see the faces of those boys. I know who they are. I hear their parents, siblings, friends and teachers talk about each "world that has just been destroyed". Their crime: being Jewish.
Have you ever paid a condolence call or gone to a funeral of someone you didn't know personally? Here we feel connected; we are all one family. It could have been you, your husband, or your 17-year-old boy, and we feel the pain of the loss in our big family.
Conversely, we feel the joy of each great moment and true thankfulness to God for every thwarted attack when "no one was injured." Hundreds of those moments occur each week, though most don't make the news. For example, our neighbors' car which was riddled with 10 bullets on their way to work and the passengers walked away physically unscathed. You don't hear about the brave Israeli waiter who saw a suspicious figure walking into his cafe, pushed him out the door, looked him in the eye, tackled him and pulled out the wires from the explosives strapped to his body.
And in these moments, we are reminded that we live in a special country where we realize that our very existence is unnatural. At some level, we all know that we are in God's hands, we remember how precious it is just to be alive, and we know that having another day to smell the flowers and love our kids is a true gift.
We are living through very painful and dangerous times. Our Arab neighbors, from within and without, want to annihilate every Jew. They do not discriminate between Orthodox and secular, between Sephardi and Ashkenazi, new immigrant or veteran Israeli, soldier or 8-month-old baby, "settlers" or Tel Aviv night clubbers. We are all in the same boat. Let there be no illusion.
The Jewish people are one people. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric will remind us of this when we forget. When my family needs me most, I'm not going to slip out the back door. How could I imagine leaving my brother bleeding in the battlefield while I run home to watch a game of baseball?
God decided, not the UN and not Ben Gurion, to give us a chance to build a Jewish country in the land promised to our forefathers.
The State of Israel was built on the ashes of the Holocaust so that with God's help, as a people we could never be persecuted, oppressed and wiped out by other nations the way we had in the past. God decided, not the UN and not Ben Gurion, to give us a chance to build a Jewish country in the land promised to our forefathers.
Israel, since its inception, protects Jews all over the world: We will send our elite troops to Entebbe airport to save hijacked Jewish passengers. We will perform Operation Solomon and airlift thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. We open our doors to tens of thousands of Russian immigrants when their Jewish existence is threatened.
And today, some of our loving families are asking us to return to America-England-Canada. What you perhaps can't sense is our deep-rooted commitment to the bigger picture, and that Israel, for better or for worse, has become our home and its people our extended family.
Yes, we are in the midst of a frightening war. A war with no defined battlefield. A war where you can get killed for being a Jew while celebrating your niece's Bat Mitzvah, getting on a bus to go to work, sitting in a cafe having coffee with a friend, shopping in the supermarket, or sitting in a hotel lobby holding your baby and enjoying the sea air in Netanya. (These are just a few incidents over a recent 7-day period.)
As Paul Johnson, a Christian, in his well-known book "The History of the Jews" attests (and for some reason it is always more convincing when you hear it from a non-Jew), the Jewish people's survival defies all laws of nature. That miracle continues today in a tiny little country in the Middle East surrounded by hateful enemies. But we cannot let our enemies dictate where or how we live. This is my only country and I live here to keep that miracle alive.