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Disconnecting the app: An Israeli in America

So far away from home, we have the privilege of avoiding the minute-by-minute updates on rockets from Gaza, but can we? Should we?
A man looks at the damage to a house in Sderot, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza Strip, November 12 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)
A man looks at the damage to a house in Sderot, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza Strip, November 12 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

“Our family and friends don’t have a choice. They are there. Living it.”

Mika, our third-year Jewish Agency Israel Fellow stated something that resonated with us all. As Jewish Agency Shlichim, serving as Israeli emissaries on campuses and in communities across the globe, right now, we are incredibly far away from home. Until yesterday, our biggest challenge was accepting that Autumn had skipped a year and many of us were already treading in snow…

But now, we were reflecting together, as a delegation, on our sentiments over the past couple of days. Rockets are yet again wreaking havoc and mental torture over the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. And yet we are so incredibly far away.

The thousands of miles between us are a physical distance; creating an almost alternative reality for what our country is experiencing.

“We can shut off the app. We have that privilege.”

There it was.

Someone had said it.

No matter how glued to the new reports we are, or how many hundreds of times the “red alert” app rings on our phone notifying us of a rocket being fired into Israel, we are still so very far away from it.

There are some of us who expressed wanting and needing our US colleagues and students to check in with us. There were others who explained that for the people we work with, these events are so very far away. How can we expect it to be a priority for them? There were sentiments of slight guilt; a strange and ironic feeling to have when the logic tells you to be grateful you are safe and distant from it all.

But more than anything, there was a sad sense of frustration. For the people who have lived with this anguish for far too long.

In Israel, we celebrate life. Our weddings are like no other weddings. Weekly feasts with loved ones are as much a part of life as going to work every day. We speak loudly. Some may even say aggressively. I say with passion. All because we celebrate life.

And because of that celebration of life, we simply cannot shut off the app. As much as our brain tells us we should. Because we don’t merely celebrate our own life but every single life.

And when any life is in danger, we stop in our tracks. We need the app.

I won’t be disconnecting the app. As I know many others won’t. But I will be praying the app stops having relevance. And life will be celebrated.

By all.

About the Author
Michelle Rojas-Tal is the Jewish Agency's central Shlicha to Hillel International and Director of the Israel Fellows Program. The Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows program brings nearly 80 young emissaries to campuses across North America and close to a dozen across the globe to serve on college campuses. Michelle and her family are currently on Shlichut and living in the greater D.C. area from Jerusalem. She has devoted her life's work to Israel and the Jewish people.
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