I am safe. I am completely wholeheartedly safe. From the end of August until the beginning of June, I have the privilege to live in the Old City of Jerusalem, essentially following in the footsteps of my ancestors.
This year I am blessed to be learning in Midreshet Harova, a Zionistic all girls seminary where young adults come for what they call their “gap year,” the year after an individual is finished with high school before starting college. For me, I hope this can be a year of internal reflection, a year in which I strive for truth to become the best religious Jew I can become, and continue to grow as a daughter, sister and friend.
When I walk the five minute “trek” from my Midreshet Harova dorm to the Kotel, I stare in astonishment at the Old City stones that have been in the ground for generations telling their stories. I feel that I am now a part of the story of living in Jerusalem.
In the past few weeks, there have been three פיגועים (terrorist attacks) minutes away from where I live. Three atrocious and unjustified terrorist attacks that have left families utterly shattered. Who were some of these people who unfortunately passed away? An innocent tiny human, Chaya Zissel Braun, a baby whose precious last moments were spent in the Kotel, the holiest place in the world, a young woman, Karen Yemima Muscara, who was in the process of converting to Judaism, and most recently, an IDF Druze policeman, Jedan Assad, who devoted his service to Israel and called for arrangements that would prevent more fatalities, “be they Jews, Arabs, or Druze.” Additionally, the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick shows the world the irony of a heroic man who stood up for his belief of religious tolerance at the Temple Mount and was intentionally shot at because of his conviction.
Life in Israel is not easy; it’s a בלאגן (jumble) of all colors, shapes and sizes. Rockets are shot, terror is continuous, and nonetheless, this is normalcy in Israel.
Across the globe, Israel is depicted as a war zone, some even say on the brink of a third Intifada. On September 10th, the United States issued a travel warning for Israel, where they suggested that one should “consider very carefully whether you should go…”
However, it is far from impossible to live here. The Jews I meet when I go away for שבת (Shabbos) or simply when I meet people on the streets are so passionate about ארץ ישראל (the land of Israel), they could never imagine leaving their homeland. It is a country that has political problems and crime just like any other democratic country, as well as its fair share of terror. Yet, I could never imagine spending my gap year anywhere but here, especially in the Old City.
Every time there was a פיגוע (terrorist attack) in recent weeks, my friends from other seminaries and yeshivas have texted me, “Stay safe!!” and “Are you okay?! We were told not to go into the Old City!” To which I reply to them and to the world, I have never felt safer. I have never felt more at home. I am not naïve, I know I have to watch where I am going. Nevertheless, this is my homeland, and this is where I am meant to stay. I will forever feel safe.