Brave? Not me. Them.

No, I am not brave and stop telling me that I am because I am going to Israel to live.  I surely do not feel brave, but blessed.  Blessed because there are those who were and continue to be brave in ensuring Israel’s survival as Jewish homeland and for Jewish survival in general.

Now, I am not saying that there are not risks. My Hebrew is minimal (and that’s an overstatement), I will be living in a large city which I have not done for almost thirty years, and there will be a learning curve to a health care system that will be crucial for continuing to keep a chronic illness under control.  But brave?  No, not me.

Bravery was on the faces of the Jewish families in Hevron who are surrounded by people who wish they were dead, although Jewish life there dates back to the Bronze Age. Those who remained in Hevron after the massacre of 1929 were brave. This holy place is one of our most important connections to Jewish life and these nine hundred or so people are keeping the connection alive.  When I visited there a few months ago, I knew I was witnessing courage. And as I watched the Jewish kids of Hevron play in a playground, I was thankful for the spirit of those families who were preserving Jewish life in this precious spot. Only a couple of months ago, it was discovered that terrorists were attempting to build a tunnel that would open up under the playground.

Bravery was inherent in early aliyah; those who helped create what has become a vibrant flourishing country arrived when there was nothing.  Nothing. They built their own homes in a land where there was no infrastructure, no medical care, minimal food and water.  We come with agencies helping us navigate bureaucracy; receive quality health care; with the world’s best military and police to protect us.  A free flight and money.  Again, I know it will not be easy. No rose colored glasses, not false optimism. I will be living alone, as I have for many years, but in a strange apartment with no relatives and only a few friends. Yes, it will be a change for me. But brave, no. They, who came before, were brave.

Those who fought the Romans and all the early invaders, lived under the Ottomans, and fought the British. Those trapped in detention camps in Cyprus who risked their lives in ships they knew might sink or come under British fire; many of them had just been in other more deadly camps in a Europe that ceased to exist for them. Those who were exiled from Arab lands in 1948 and brought a rich culture to a new homeland.  Those who created new life in kibbutzim; creating an agricultural miracle. The Ethiopian Jews who risked everything to live somewhere that they previously had only dreamed existed.  Bravery? Yes.

The men and women, both Israeli born and Lone Soldiers, who protect our homeland are continuing a legacy of bravery that goes back to ancient times to independence and through all of the wars including the most recent Protective Edge.  And goes back to those who fought all the invaders that would remove Jewish life from Zion. There are thousands and thousands of brave actions in our history in this land.  But aliyah from a first world country, clutching my Kindle, laptop, favorite shampoo and knowing that Internet service will be available?

There are many things people are talking with me about before I leave. I get it. I get that this is not easily understood, especially when people who have not been to Israel imagine whatever it is they imagine and look at me as if I have lost my mind or have drunk Kool-Aid. Patience has become the word of this autumn (an Israeli friend messaged me recently saying savlanut is a very important Hebrew word) as I say, over and over again “No, I am not scared” “No, I am not brave” and “No, I don’t think this is a stupid thing to do.”  The last answer is to an implied question when I get the “are you nuts?” stare.

The reality is that despite frequent Jewish disunity in Israel, despite the threat of terrorism, despite the difficulty of a new language and different culture….despite all that, my main emotion is that I have been blessed by the actions of those who displayed courage in the past and continue to do so.  All I am doing is going home.






About the Author
Irene Rabinowitz made aliyah in 2014 and lives in Jerusalem. Prior to making aliyah, she lived in a small odd town at the tip of Cape Cod for 28 years. She lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult (or old child), but is a Rhode Islander by birth. Irene has served as a local elected official and retired from a long career in non-profit management at the end of 2013, after serving as the Executive Director of Helping Our Women for 18 years. She has worked at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance and retired in 2020 from her position as the Resource Development Manager at the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center. She recently retired from her position as a Consultant at Landman Strategic Fundraising. Pro cycling fan. T1D.