Carol Silver Elliott
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95% paradise

We must understand that this fight is for both our homeland and our very survival – we must support Israel with more than just words
Source: Carol Silver Elliott (Author)
Source: Carol Silver Elliott (Author)

For most of us who have been to Israel, stepping off the plane in Ben Gurion Airport feels like walking through the gateway of a different world.  For me, there is always an overwhelming sense of belonging, that this is the one place in the world that we, as Jews, will always be accepted and be at home.  There is also this remarkable feeling of not being in the minority, of being in a country where being a Jew is a given, not an anomaly.

Spending time in Israel this past week, those feelings were intensified.  Despite much of life looking “normal,” it is clear that nothing is normal, that this is a country at war and under siege. And that we, as Jews, must understood that this fight is for both our homeland and our very survival.

Our beloved guide, whom I have known for many years, describes living in Israel as 95% paradise.  The other 5%, well, that’s the kind of challenge this tiny country is facing today.  But that 5% looms large in Israel today.  It looms large when you stand on the fields of the Nova Music Festival and see the makeshift memorials to so many, too many, young lives lost.  It looms large when you visit Kfar Aza and see the posters for the hostages ripped from that kibbutz and still missing, when you hear of the tremendous loss of life and you see homes—and community—destroyed.

The woman who showed us around the kibbutz, the only home she has ever known, talked about this vital, peace-loving community of 650 that is now largely a ghost town. She has moved back into her home, which was not destroyed, and is one of just 10 people who inhabit this place of painful memories that rings with the echoes of unspeakable violence. She talked about her lifelong commitment to being an activist for peace.  At the same time, she pointed out the location where her best friend, and many others, had been brutally murdered.  And she talked about her realization that the peace of which she dreamt cannot be a reality. There are no hands across these borders possible any longer. There is no shared peace but she, as we, hope that there can be separate peace and coexistence.

There is an air of unreality to see buildings pockmarked with bullet holes, an empty lot in Sderot where once the police station stood, homes that are in shambles, filled with broken glass and the simple objects of a life—shoes, glasses, pictures on the wall—that are all now debris.  Even standing in Tkuma Field, looking at the burned out corpses of more than 1800 vehicles, seems impossible. And yet it was not only possible, it was, and is, reality.

For many of us, our visits to Israel have been completely in the realm of 95% paradise.  We have basked in the warmth of our homeland, we have felt a sense of belonging that eludes us elsewhere in the world. Images of Holocaust survivors kissing the ground on arrival both resonate and make sense.  Even in those first moments of arrival, we know that we are home in a way that feels complete.

Today, our home is being threatened.  Today, our very existence is under attack.  Today, we must stand strong, we must believe, we must support.  We stand with Israel must be more than just words.  It must be our commitment to the past, the present and the future.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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