It is 10:30pm Saturday night at our local Jerusalem convenience store. I hear Russian. It’s the millennials in front of me in line; stocking up on chips and beer. Lots of beer. One is wearing a shirt for ‘Birthright Israel’. I can’t resist. I corner them in the alley and ask if they’re Russian and if they’d be willing to answer a few million questions.
They respond with perfect English and wide smiles. They are a group of young Russians on a Birthright trip to Israel. They pull out a beer. I start my barrage:
Oh my goodness, will you be able to fly back to Russia? – Not sure.
How are handling this? – We’re freaked out. It’s horrible.
How are people back home coping? – Lots of drugs.
(We laugh, but, um, they’re not joking.)
No, really, people are smoking lots of joints and drinking lots of alcohol. (omg)
Are Russians FOR this war? – NO! Absolutely not. Everyone we know is against it.
Do you know people protesting? – Yes, lots. We have friends on house arrest.
Do you know that the Russian media is lying to you? – Yes, we know.
Does everyone know? – Yes, everyone knows. Except the elderly Russians.
How do you find out what’s really going on? – We use VPNs. (fake internet addresses) Everyone does it. Don’t post our names, we’re worried about the Russian government.
(We all laugh, but, um, they’re only half joking.)
I am moved by how warm, witty and open they are.
Last question of the night…are any of the people on your Birthright trip going to make Aliyah because of all of this?
The girl with the ready laugh and the black eye liner raises her hand. – I am.
I hug her. I can’t resist.
Welcome home, Russian sister….let’s have a beer together on the other side of all of this.
PSA: Reminder to have compassion for the many millions of Russians who are suffering in Putin’s war….Peace upon us all.