Six years ago, slightly nervous, but excited, I boarded a plane and moved to Israel. My husband and I had been married for 3 weeks and had been planning this move since we were dating. What lay before me was uncertain, but I felt ready to move to Israel and set a strong Jewish path for my future family.
Fast forward six years: two Israeli sons have been born, we have lived in three major cities and have finally settled in a warm and friendly community. My 4.5-year-old son speaks fluent Hebrew – he teaches me new words every day. I still do not completely fit in. My children’s teachers sometimes look confused when I speak with them in Hebrew, but I get by. I have Israeli friends, read the newspapers in Hebrew and even manage the finances of my company in Hebrew through conversations with our Israeli bookkeeper.
Yet…I have still always felt a step removed. The army slang does not flow from my lips, and I still do not know the words to basic nursery rhymes. It takes time, I was told.
In my six years here, I have made tremendous strides, speaking in more and more fluent Hebrew, even cracking a joke or two (any non-native speaker knows how challenging it is to be funny in another language). But, when it comes down to it, there are times where I still feel like an outsider.
The past 18 days have been trying ones. Last night, my heart was broken into a million pieces. A sledgehammer was taken to a sheet of glass, scattering shards all over the floor. When I awoke this morning, I felt the shards of glass underfoot with every step I took. Everyone did. Today felt like the aftershock following an earthquake. No one called for an official day of mourning, but everyone here knew to act accordingly. The radio has been playing sad songs all day, everyone is walking a little slower, holding their head down, feeling just a bit less enthusiastic. But we never turned inward and stopped caring about one another. I received a hug from my son’s teacher, a caring “Honey, are you okay?” from a stranger.
I had always thought my barrier to being truly Israeli was one of language. I now know, it is one of experience. When the boys were taken 18 days ago, every Israeli felt it. They instantly became “our boys,” we felt as close to them as to our own children. We united behind the boys, their families and their return. Every facet of Israeli society rallied together to pray, to support, and to love. And when we heard the news that their bodies were found and that they had been murdered, the heart of the collective nation was broken. We went from a nation united in prayer and support to a nation united in tragedy and grief.
Today, I feel different. My grammar may not be perfect, I may not catch every joke or understand every acronym, but today, I felt the true feeling of being Israeli. I now understand why Israelis are so tough. They have dealt with this before, they have felt this intense pain, and yet, the need to move forward. These experiences harden you with time.
Today, I, along with every Israeli, felt a feeling of tremendous loss and sadness, but also, cautious hope. A feeling of unity, and the accompanying feeling of strength. A desire to hate and destroy, but displaying the restraint that is required of our people.
Most of all, I felt the feeling of resolve. We will cry, we will mourn, but we will go on, tougher, but stronger. Hopefully, the unity we feel will continue and inspire us as we collectively navigate our way out of this darkness. This country is worth fighting for, and we will live to fight another day.