I grew up a Zionist Diaspora Jew. Pro-Israel rallies, Jewish day school and youth group, Hebrew movies and TV shows at home, the whole shebang. So come high school graduation, it was a no-brainer for me to spend time in Israel before continuing on to college the next year.
From the beginning of my time in Israel, I knew I wanted to make this place my permanent home as soon as possible. I felt something within me that said I didn’t want to just visit this country; I wanted to be a part of it. College would come later. First, I had to move to Israel and join the Israeli Army.
Only a month ago was I packing my three suitcases (each regulation size and under 50 lbs.), ready to make aliyah. I couldn’t wait to finally call myself an Israeli. To walk through the streets lined with Hebrew signs, to see religious and non-religious sit together on the bus and argue, to eat mediterranean food and contemplate my identity within the context of the Jewish land; I wanted to have it all.
But most of all, it was David.
We had met in the fall through a close friend shortly after I had decided to make aliyah, and quickly paired off. If I had known a year ago that I was to fall in love with a tzabar (Israeli-born native) who was in the IDF, I don’t think I would believe it. But it just made sense between us. His English wasn’t so great at first, but that didn’t matter. We understood each other, and while it was intimidating for both of us to be dating a foreigner, we knew that this was going somewhere good.
I left Israel in March to be home before I moved to Israel permanently. David and I had a tearful goodbye and agreed we’d see each other soon. I worried that things would be different while I was away, but nothing changed. We missed each other too much to let anything happen. We talked nearly every day, and counted down the minutes until we saw each other again.
Just as I began preparing for the big move, things started to heat up with the disappearance of the three boys from the Gush. As per our protocol, the jewish community around the world responded with an outcry of hope and support for the families of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. In retrospect, perhaps we were a little too hopeful for their safe return.
On June 30th, just two weeks after my arrival in Israel, the boys’ bodies were found. Sometime later we found out that the Israeli government had already assumed that the boys were murdered, but continued to let the Jewish world believe they were being held hostage by Hamas.
Meanwhile, I was settling into my new home in Jerusalem for the time being before I went to live on Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak, near Petah Tikvah, and be a part of the Garin Tzabar army program that would be taking up a large amount of time. David had also taken a few vacation days from the army to spend some more time with me as well when I arrived. We were both shocked and disappointed when we heard the news. I was particularly at odds with how I felt about the whole situation and what it has led up to thus far.
David went back to the army a few days after the boys’ bodies were found. Had I known there would be an operation to the extent it has reached in Gaza, I would have felt a lot different about saying goodbye to him in his uniform.
As things started to move in the direction of war, it hit me that this would be the first time I had an intimate connection to the dangers of the wars in Israel. As a child growing up with the news of the second Intifada, I knew that there were risks to living in Israel, and I knew that the people of Israel lose so many loved ones during the many wars Israel has faced, and I saw the pain Israel has gone through. but I never truly knew what it was to send those I knew and loved into war until now.
For the first time in my life, I have found myself on the other side of Diaspora lines. People tell me jokingly, “welcome to Israel, sorry about the timing!” but I believe it truly has been the right time for me to come. I have been thrust into feeling the anger and frustration that comes along with being here. I want David to come home safe, but I understand what Netanyahu’s government is trying to do. I feel the intimate fear that comes with Israel going to war. I stand with Israel firmly, but feel so critical of many of our government’s decisions. More than ever, I feel at odds with myself on the matter. For better or for worse, it’s been the right introduction to being Israeli.