Little did I know when I wrote the following op-ed (Israel: My home away from home) in early June that within a month the State of Israel would be once again in a state of war with rockets constantly being launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. They have been receiving smuggled weapons from Iran and Syria for years. Living in Israel during this period of time only strengthens my love and admiration for this country and its people. I truly cannot imagine any other country living continually under such conditions. Sadly, residents in Southern Israel have dealt with the constant sound of the sirens and booms from the rockets landing for 10 years.  But, for the first time cities in central Israel, such as where I live in Herzliya, Tel Aviv, and even Jerusalem are now experiencing the same immoral fate of living in a constant state of fear wondering when the siren will sound again. It seems like chaos to live in Israel during these times with literally the entire country in range of rockets. Yet, what the terrorists don’t understand is the people of Israel’s resilient strength and endurance through the toughest of times. This is why I love Israel. It’s not about the politics or the religiousness of the state; it’s about the people, who somehow manage to continue to live their lives as normally as possible even at the worst of times when the entire nation is worrying about the soldiers and the unknown future of this conflict. I will never leave this country out of fear. Israel is here to stay, and the more sophisticated rockets and weaponry the enemy obtains, the stronger and more determined and united the people of Israel will continue to be.

It is now September and the situation (for now) has calmed down. Life is back to “normal” and Israelis are preparing for the New Year. Sadly, this new year 66 IDF soldiers, and several more who died from their injuries, and 5 civilians, are not here with us to celebrate the end of the war and a start to a new year, having lost their lives fighting in Gaza, defending our border, or from rocket attacks. It is hard to have much optimism in seeing any fruitful end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian pandemic. Yet, Israelis never lose hope, and I have optimism that Israel will continue to stand strong, and remain a strong democratic, innovative, and humanitarian state and homeland for the Jewish people. However, the battle fighting for its legitimate right to exist since 1948 has not ended, and the end is far from sight.

Israel: My home away from home

Crown Point, Indiana is the place I have called home my entire life. Little did I know by the age of 19, I would have two places I call home, Midwest America and the State of Israel.

I will always be Hannah from Indiana, but only from living so far away have I learned to appreciate my roots and way of life in America. Home to many is the place we grew up, it’s the place we come back to everyday, and it’s the place we one day imagine starting a family and life of our own. But for me, home is where my heart is. Israel is currently my home, and it will be for at least the next few years. Yet, home is also and will always be Crown Point, Indiana where my parents have lived most of their lives, and helped to establish the foundation of my life. Israel has found a special place in my heart. Despite the struggles and frustrations I sometimes feel living so far away from my family, my decision to come study Government and counter-terrorism in Israel has by far been the most life changing experience I could ask for.

Traveling across the world to live and study in the Middle East has opened my eyes to the world and has made me appreciate where I come from and where I live today in ways I never knew possible. I admit, I was a frustrated kid growing up, my parents provided me with the opportunities and resources to reach for the stars, yet I never felt satisfied with where my life was heading in America. I was terrified I was making a big mistake picking up my life and traveling to a part of the world, which many avoid, but hindsight has enabled me to appreciate taking such a big risk, for it has taught me to never give up in my search for my life path, and every step along the way has forced me to mature and see the world we live in with a different perspective. I used to feel stuck, curious about how much the world has to offer, yet unaware of the possibility to actual travel the world, and bring my home with me wherever my heart takes me next.

So here I am today, 21 years old, on my way to receiving my bachelor’s degree in Government, specializing in counter-terrorism and international affairs next year. I didn’t know what would be happening next in my life until a couple weeks ago, when I completed the Aliyah process (becoming a citizen in Israel), and will be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces after I graduate. Military service is mandatory here in Israel, and despite being a foreigner, Israel is my home and I am ready to help the country that has taught me so much by serving it the army. Furthermore, the army will only prepare me more for my life to come and provide me with knowledge and tools to continue reaching for the stars.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of having two places I call home is allowing me to see the many similarities and differences between people from all over the world. Everyone, no matter their nationality, religion, or culture has a home dear to their heart. We are all striving to accomplish our goals and establish a life of our own. Home for me is constantly transforming, but my home in Indiana and my home in Israel will always be with me wherever life takes me next.