A few weeks ago, my family and I spent a Shabbat in Herzliya Pituach. My aunt and uncle — who made aliya from the UK about a year ago — live there and told us to come and even bring our dog. Since it was the first time 11-year-old Gal had ever actually received his own personal invitation, I was excited to make the trip.
I’ve been living in Israel for 21 years. I’ve spent most of that time in Jerusalem, the Gush and the surrounding areas with Shabbatot every couple of months in Netanya with my parents.
What I encountered in Herzliya was quite extraordinary — as in, very much out of my ordinary-day-to-day Israeli existence. I literally saw, “how the other half live.”
Now you might presume that I am referring to materialistic wealth when I use this term of phrase. I’m not. Of course, the beautiful tree-lined streets, almost exquisite dog-poop bags that can be found on every corner, perfectly manicured parks and houses the size of those that are pretty much “only seen on TV,” isn’t what I’m used to in Efrat. While there is wealth in my neighborhood, it is for sure not on that level.
You also don’t have a national flag flying high out of every 6 or 7 houses (unless you are my house which obnoxiously has either a Steelers, Pirates, Canadian, US or British flag atop a flag pole but that is only because we think we are important, not because we actually are). These Herzliya flags are rather to indicate that there are embassies and consulates and all other manner of political what-nots in residence. But this is also not what I mean by how the other half live.
What struck me was this: No soldiers. No guns. No OMG I’m living in a war zone akin to that of a place like Afghanistan.
Now you have to remember: I’ve lived in Israel for more than two decades. I lived in Jerusalem through the terrible bus/café bombings and that was my life. I spent many years (being single) on horrific dates at coffee shops not sure if I was worrying more about a greasy, creepy, guy or some loony terrorist blowing himself up in front of my crème brulee. I know from war and terrorism.
But my life in the Gush feels different. There are a few reasons. First, I’m married and have kids. Second, I’m older and potentially more insightful. And third, because the reality of hard-ass soldiers standing at corners, gun in arms with hand on the trigger ready to shoot just looks like something out of a bad movie. How can this be real????
And even though I’ve seen this twice a day, five times a week for the last few months, not one time goes by that I don’t say to myself “Jeez, WTF?” Like, this is Israel, where we grow Jaffa oranges and plant JNF trees and sing “Eretz Yisrael sheli yafa v’gam porachat.” It’s not Afghanistan, for heavens sake…
But in the tree-lined streets of Herzliya Pituach, where the sun shines and people walk their dogs and head to the beach, I feel very clearly that there are two Israels. There is a safe one and a not safe one. And that doesn’t make me feel sad per se, it just makes me feel like an Efrat Israeli is living in a different reality to a Herzliya one and bringing up my kids in a war-torn Israel is just unfortunate.
I’m not saying I would like to live in Herzliya over Efrat. Efrat is phenomenal. But I just wish, that when I drive past Tzomet Hagush twice daily, I was passing people walking their dogs and not beautiful young soldiers putting their lives on the line due to our psycho-wacky neighbours.