Aliya 2.0 – Baptism of Fire

Over the past 15 or so years we have seen Nefesh B’nefesh turn Aliya from the US and other Anglo countries into something of a fashion statement. Aliya had existed from the US before, but the hardships were sometimes so daunting to people hearing about these experiences from their still Sunday morning bagel eating relatives (even though fyi – bagels have become kind of a staple here over the years) that most “normal” Anglos never considered the move until then.

NBN took that hardship, the extreme hurdles which once faced as the ordinary oleh and streamlined it into a very smooth process, and a process in which some may feel like they hardly left Teaneck. I have no doubt that NBN’s intentions in doing so were noble.

Over the past 10 years or so, while NBN was increasing the number of new immigrants arriving percentage wise every year, Israel was relatively quiet (yes, 3 wars in 10 years is relative quiet in this part of the World).

I always claim that you haven’t finished being an “Oleh” until either you or your child has been drafted into the Army. The IDF is Israeli society’s melting pot, created by David Ben Gurion and not much has changed in the Army since he was the Commander in Chief.

Which means that there are quite a few “new” Olim here that have arrived over the past decade.

The reason for this is the average Israeli’s worry over soldiers, since as an Israeli, at any given time you probably know at least 20 people currently in uniform. To the new Oleh, this feeling is still very much an abstract in most young Anglo communities, they wont really feel this in full until their own children and those of their friends are drafted.

Which brings me to our current situation – Intifada

This is about to become my 4th un/official “Intifada”

the first Intifada I felt sort of like a bystander when the rocks hit the bus I was on when I was 6 years old coming back from my Great Grandparents house by bus alone (those were the times you could run around this country with very little of the fears us as parents have today), the bus was attacked by rocks, the female soldier sitting across from me who was sleeping so peacefully, woke up to find her face covered in glass shards and blood, I don’t think she ever slept so peacefully again.

There were lots of rock attacks and it was scary even with “Migun” on the car (for those newcomers – “Migun” is the kind of windows you got for your car if you lived beyond what is infamously known as the “Green Line” –they are a plastic window that your garage replaces for you so if you are hit by a rock the window wont shatter, they don’t exist anymore, since today the real threat is gunfire of which the country would go bankrupt trying to protect cars against.)

The 2nd Intifada really started when I was in school in Jerusalem in 1994/95 (although it isn’t called that) Homicide bombers going off at least once a week, usually more often, armed assault on Ben Yehuda, car bombs going off, more Homicide Bombers going off, one week after the next, bus after bus, learning to examine each person that got on the bus next to you, going to the driver if you saw anything suspicious (back then the bus drivers were Jewish), learning the meaning of the word “vigilance”, no, I don’t mean taking the law into my own hands and beating up any random Arab, rather keeping your eyes open, staying alert, checking everyone and everything out, if something didn’t add up, no hesitation, call a police officer over, go to the driver, or point something out to the soldier sitting next to you.

Throughout there were sporadic assaults on the roads, whether in the heart of Samaria or the road from Bet Shemesh to Ashdod, no place was “safe”, you just needed to be alert so that if the moment came, you could increase your chances of surviving.

Then, at the beginning of 2000, as I was preparing for my army service, all hell broke loose, I thought couldn’t be any worse than when buses were blowing up several years earlier en route to school. I soon found out, that the intensity of what was to come was unbearable.

I enlisted to the IDF in March 2001, to a unit which was considered elite, attacks on the streets, roads and buses were a daily occurrence, our commanders were preparing us not only for regular infantry combat, but scenarios u may encounter on a bus or in a coffee shop, we were expected, one month into training, to be able and willing to respond in case terror came knocking.

I spent 3 years in the Army at the height of what was known officially as the “2nd Intifada”

Tourists stopped coming, businesses shut down, and Jerusalem became a ghost town.

Bombs, shootings, road attacks, Ben Yehuda and Yafo street in Jerusalem taking the brunt of it again, more Homicide bombers than I could’ve imagined, one long continuous nightmare. They weren’t killing us then because of the Jews on the Temple Mount (although that was one of the claims) just like they weren’t killing us in 1987 because they wanted a State of their own.

They come to kill us because we are Jews – they don’t care if you are a Hareidi that didn’t serve in the Army, or a lawyer who provides free defense for Arab terrorists (they killed him as well), if you are Jewish, you are a legitimate target. Politics means nothing to them, you can provide them with a State and give them ½ of Jerusalem, but if you open your ears and listen, you will hear that they have only one goal, the destruction of the Jewish State in its entirety.

Every decade or so they decide to test the waters again and see if they can maybe this time destroy the State of Israel, if they can’t destroy they at least want to make us bleed really badly.

It is nice to say “we need peace” but historically we have never had a peace agreement with any of our neighbors, the agreements signed with Egypt and Jordan included “normalization” of ties, something neither country ever held to, these barriers effectively turned those “Peace” agreements to an agreement on the cessation of military hostilities – that is far from being “Peace”.

I have said all of this for the benefit of the “newbies”, all those NBN’ers that have made Aliya in the past 10 years. All that stuff I said in the beginning about you not being Israeli until you have experienced the Army through your own eyes or those of your kids. Well, there is an exception, to the rule you (and I) aren’t going to like, there is another indoctrination into Israeli Society – It’s through “Baptism of fire” in a terror form. You won’t be worried so much about soldiers as much as you will be worried sick about your own kids, the worry is constant and never abates.

Having said that, now is the time to be in Israel, this is exactly when you are needed the most. These events will shape you for better or for worse and hopefully we will all pull through and come out stronger than before.

The thought of packing it all in and moving back to the NY is probably looking really tempting right now. Nobody from NBN put this your Aliya packet, the thought of your kids being in danger is usually a trump card for any argument, right about now or in the near future you will be tempted to use it.

It is about to get really scary, probably for a prolonged period of time, it is important to be vigilant (not to be confused with hysteria). It is important to remember the purpose of why we live here, it is also good to remember at times that you live in the only place a Jew can live and defend himself (although sometimes it may not seem so).

There are things you can do to feel a bit safer, look around you, find someone who has been around the block a couple of times, just like when a newbie arrives on the battlefield for the first time he looks for a veteran face to stay close to and learn from, watch that person quietly and try and learn as much as you can from him, you are now in a combat situation, unfortunately in the war against terror the front-line is the civilian line – You are now a soldier, you and your kids, like it or not.

About the Author
I work in journalism as a freelance photojournalist, I write and produce special features for INN (Arutz 7) related to Policy and Military issues I also contribute to magazines such as Air Forces Monthly as well as Israel Hayom daily newspaper among other publications.
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