I have no plans to move back to America. The thought hasn’t crossed my mind. I absolutely love it here and am living a dream in simply waking up in Eretz Yisrael each morning.
Recently I published two essays on the same day. The first stressed the joy and excitement of living in Israel. I wrote of a decade long dream to move back to Israel, and now that I’m here everyday seems happier than the one before it. My second essay discussed the all too frequent terror attacks the Israeli people have been hit with recently. In my second essay I stressed how the terror has become so frequent that it is no longer news. I wrote that it unacceptable that terror, even “minor acts of terror” would become the norm and not cause outrage around the world, and especially here in Israel. The all too common terror causes the residents of Israel to live in a constant state of fear – even if only subconsciously. I was challenged by some readers that these two essays contradicted each other. How could a person live in a simultaneous state of euphoric excitement and fear? A few readers even suggested that I move back to America.
My family and I dreamed of moving back to Israel ever since we left in March of 2004. In the ten years that we lived in America opportunities arose to go back to Israel, but they were never right. This past year an opportunity presented itself, a truly great opportunity, that would allow us to move back to Eretz Yisrael. We took a few months to contemplate the offer, and a few hours before the Passover Seder decided to move. When we finished the seder and exclaimed, “Next year in Jerusalem!” tears rolled down my cheeks and my family knowingly smiled at each other, sharing our secret that we knew it would be true for us this coming year.
A month before our move, three precious boys were kidnapped and all hell broke loose. Before we knew it we weren’t just moving to Israel and fulfilling our dream, but we were entering a war zone. While reporters called and television crews showed up to ask us if in the face of a war we’d still move, we never even reconsidered our decision. When one reporter asked why we’d go to a war zone, we explained because Israel is home, and you’re always safest at home.
I’d be lying if I claimed we weren’t nervous about Operation Protective Edge. While I knew that statistically we’d be safe under falling rockets, air raid sirens sounded during our first night in Israel. Three of my children were out at the mall and I had no way of getting them back in time or even helping them find shelter. The reality of life in Israel bore down all too soon. Our new reality solidified when on that same first night I attended a midnight funeral of a soldier from my new Yeshiva who was killed in battle. At the same moment our plane had landed that morning, Evyatar Turgemon was giving his life on the battlefield.
Jews have been dealing with multiple, even contradictory, emotions for millennia. King David adjourned Jews to “Serve God with fear and rejoice with trembling.” Our Rabbis explained that King David was teaching that prayer is best performed rejoicing in the opportunity to stand before God while trembling in awe of God’s greatness. The two seem to contradict, but the human condition requires both to be experienced simultaneously.
I rejoice at the opportunity to live in a land that my ancient ancestors called home and my more recent ones pined for. I literally celebrate every moment I am here. Even during the challenging moments when things don’t go perfectly, I look around me, read the Hebrew words near me, see the Jews walking around, the brave soldiers standing guard, and the Torah – which seem to be everywhere, and smile at the privilege I enjoy of in Eretz Yisrael.
I am also scared of life here. I am scared by the terror attack committed by a 16 year old at my local Rami Levy. I am nervous about a stabbing at the Jaffa Gate through which I frequently walk on my commute home, and as I wrote, about my daughter having rocks thrown at her bus on a school trip. Terror is no laughing matter, and it would be false bravado to laugh it off.
Yet, as nervous as I might be, I am overjoyed to be here. There are dangerous neighborhoods all over the world, and even in America I, and probably you, avoided those neighborhoods. In Israel, we do the same, driving through tunnels and on roads that circumvent dangerous neighborhoods. On every major street in every big city, people see pedestrians who scare them and they cross the street to distance themselves from the danger they perceive. In Israel, we do the same, crossing the street when we see someone who makes us nervous. In Florida, where I used to live, people moved to gated communities where ingress is only for those that pass an armed guard. In Israel, and in my Yishuv, the same is true. I don’t feel America is any safer than Israel, and more importantly I don’t feel Israel is any more dangerous than America.
My layman’s confidence in my security isn’t the reason I’m staying in Israel and not making plans to return to America. I am staying here because it is home. Living in the land of Israel was the fantasy of my ancestors, the accomplishment of the previous generations and the privilege of my generation to foster and grow.
I have no plans to go back to America, because as appreciative as I am of everything that America has provided me, my family and my people, America isn’t our home. The land of Israel is the land that God gifted us to settle and I plan on doing just. I moved to a community in the Yehuda region (on the West Bank of the Jordan River) and feel proud that I’m not living in a major metropolis, but expanding the Jewish footprint on our homeland and strengthening the territorial integrity of the State of Israel. I also hope that our move sets an example for my children and grandchildren. I hope that the next generations of Pilichowskis continuously settle our land. I pray that they too find the joy and excitement I’ve discovered in their homeland. I fervently wish that they enjoy it in peace, without the fear of terror, may God grant it speedily.