5 Lessons Learned After Experiencing Tragedy In Israel

I may not be as old as you and I may not be as wise, but I do know a thing or two about life. I have experienced two major tragedies in Israel since making Aliyah. The first was the “Operation Pillar of Defense,” which took place in November of 2012. This was the first time in my life that I have ever had rockets fired directly towards the city I was living in. This was also the first time in my life that I ever saw a rocket being intercepted by the iron dome.

Not many people can say that on the way home from work they had to get out of their car, put their hands over their head and duck as a rocket being fired from Gaza plowed down upon you from above. I will never, ever forget the image of that rocket falling from the sky and exploding into little pieces, like fireworks, above my very head.

The next tragedy I will never forget is the kidnapping of Gil-ad, Naftali and Eyal. Three boys, walking home from school, were taken and murdered by terrorists. While hope remained that the 3 teenagers were still alive, their bodies were found two and a half weeks later in a field near Hebron.

Not many people can say that they’ve personally been affected by a kidnapping involving 3 Jewish teenage boys and Hamas. Yet, I will never forget the lump in my throat and sorrow in my heart which overcame me as soon as I heard that the 3 boys were murdered.

After considering these tragic events, I have realized that I have learned many things about life, things which could only be learned from living in Israel.

Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last

I would go out in Tel Aviv a lot when when I first made Aliyah. The nightlife in Tel Aviv seemed much different from the States. The people were more lively and the music was always a bit louder. Going out gave me a sense of freedom, a sense of life.

I remember that people would always tell me that you have to live each day to the fullest – this is really true in Tel Aviv and it’s also one of the reasons for the vibrant nightlife. People really do take full advantage of life here because they are used to tragedy. Living in Israel has made me realize that you never know when the next war will be, or when the next suicide bombing might occur.

So what can you do to ease the tension? Two words – LIVE LIFE. Let me repeat: LIVE LIFE. Again: LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST. This doesn’t only relate to Israel – this motto should be adopted throughout the entire world.

It Hurts More Here

I’m used to hearing about tragedies occurring in America. And while it always makes me sad to hear about a school shooting, or an act of racism, the tragedies in Israel always affect me more. I did not know this until I actually moved to Tel Aviv.

I never knew the 3 boys who were kidnapped. I never knew their families and I had never been to the area where they had lived. So why did it hurt so much when I found out that these boys had been murdered by Hamas?

Tragedies occur all of the time in America, so why was I so sadden by a murder that took place in Israel? I’m still not 100% sure of the answer, but I think it has something to do with my connection to the country.

The tragedies in Israel always hurt me more than in America. I see the sadness on people’s faces here, I feel the depressed mood as I walk through the streets. It’s all too real for me, and it’s all too sad.

Toughen Up

While I am always in shock the next day after a tragedy occurs in Israel, I have learned that life must resume. I’ve learned from the Israelis that war, kidnappings, etc. are just a part of life here and that you have to develop a thick skin to deal with the sorrow.

I didn’t want to go to work the next day after I found out that the 3 boys were murdered. I woke up and didn’t even want to get out of bed. But I did. I went to work and everything seemed normal. In fact, hardly anyone was speaking about what had occurred. Why? Because Israelis have the thick skin which I still lack.

I don’t deal with tragedy well, yet I am slowly starting to learn that tragedy is just a part of life in Israel (at least from my perspective). A thick skin is what allows people to push through the sadness here and continue with their own lives.

Value Those Around You

I’ve noticed that the family values in Israel are very strong. People are constantly spending time with their families on the weekends and on holidays. While this is a cultural aspect of life in Israel, I also think that the tragedies which occur here almost force people to cherish one another more. When a rocket is being launched at your home for instance, you gather with your entire family in the bomb shelter. When a kidnapping occurs near your home, you hug your children even tighter at night.

Yes, family values are huge in Israel and now I am beginning to understand why. I was never faced with wars or acts of terrorism in nearby neighborhoods while living in Dallas, Texas. Everything was sugar coated and happy and I always knew that I would come home to my family at the end of the day. Now, I see a different type of lifestyle, one which has allowed me to be thankful to speak to my mom and dad on the phone everyday, just to say hello.

Knowledge Comes From Taking Risks

“You never know until you try,” is a phrase which holds an enormous amount of truth. Making Aliyah and moving to Israel alone at such a young age has taught me a lot about life. I’ve learned that knowledge will never be aquired if you just sit there and think about things. You have to go out, take a risk and learn from new environments.

I may only be 27 years old, and I may only be one out of thousands of American Jews who have made Aliyah. Yet, I have taken what I have learned from Israel and have acquired life knowledge that I will never, ever forget.

My advice to anyone planning to move to Israel is to do just do it. It might sound cliche, but I promise that you will learn and grow as an individual in ways which are not possible anywhere else in the world.

And for this, I would just like to say, “Thank you Israel for turning me into the strong woman who I am today.”  

About the Author
Rachel made Aliyah at the age of 24. She moved to Tel Aviv from Dallas, Texas by herself, after falling in love with the country on a birthright trip. Rachel currently lives in San Francisco where she works as a content marketing consultant and a blogger for The Huffington Post. Follow Rachel on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to stay up to date with her most recent blog posts and articles.