It is terribly hard to be away from Israel in these days of war. I feel like I am in a no-man’s land of the heart. My heart and my head are 100% there.
The proverb holds that “the trouble of many is the comfort of fools”. In this case, I beg to differ. I think that in times of trouble, there is great comfort in being one of many. I can’t find any comfort here right now in the United States. Nothing feels right here when Israel is at war and our cities and citizens are being bombarded by rockets and missiles. Nothing resonates with me. The news pounds at my mind and at my heart.
I’m just as connected as anyone in Israel to all of the news sources – so vastly different now than it was during the Gulf War, when we were at the mercy of hard-to-obtain paper newspapers, scratchy shortwave and CNN. Scouring all of the Israeli news sites, Israeli television blaring via satellite 24/7 in my home and office, instant and ongoing contact with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and Skype, one thing is for sure – I’m not lacking for news.
My heart is made so much heavier by the fact that what I’m feeling isn’t shared by anyone around me. There is no collective experience, no sense of community. Yes, many American Jews care deeply about Israel. But the war is just one item on their agenda, one thing that they might be talking about. And for many others, the war is just an unfortunate current event that may or may not even rate a mention.
It’s not the same. The matzav – the situation – doesn’t weigh on their every breath, the way it does for us. The war doesn’t go to sleep with them at night and wake up with them in the morning, like it does for Israelis. I can’t think of anything else – but that’s not the case for just about anyone around me.
The most amazing thing about times like these in Israel is the way the entire country comes together to help one another. The south is bombarded by missiles, so Israelis throughout the country organize initiatives to open their homes to invite strangers – entire families – to stay with them. Now granted, that unity doesn’t last long. Soon, we’ll be back to our usual bickering and factionalism. But in the meantime, I think that this sense of community and unity sets us apart. I don’t recall ever seeing this in the United States, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy or other disasters. It heartens me.
I own a successful translation company that does extensive business with Israel. Today, one of our translators requested an extension of a few hours on a deadline, so he could say goodbye to his son, who had been called up to the front. It’s the little moments like those that really get to me, but there is nobody to share them with. Nobody who truly understands.
Facebook becomes a vital way to connect with others feeling the same overwhelming sense of urgency that I do. It’s also an important source of information, and an excellent opportunity to advocate for Israel. Still, it is a poor substitute for genuine community, for collective comfort.
Living in the United States is the right choice for me, for a variety of personal reasons. I am happy here. I remain deeply connected to Israel and visit quite frequently, for both business and pleasure. Notwithstanding, being in the United States right now is a bit like solitary confinement. My experience is not the experience of anyone around me. If I mention the war at the supermarket or the hair salon, nobody will even know what I am talking about. War? What war?
My children are safe in their beds tonight. My son is not headed for war and we are not scrambling for bomb shelters. I thank God that we are out of harm’s way. But in some ways, distant and detached from the country that is so dear to my heart, I think that perhaps I am the unfortunate one.