Heartbeat of the Homeland

I’m on vacation. I’m in the U.S. on a Momma-daughter bat mitzvah trip with my biggest girl. We came to celebrate her passage into young womanhood by getting seriously loved up by her grandparents, aunties and uncles, eat obscene amounts of New York cheesecake, buy stuff, see some shows and stay up late.

We’re 18 hours into our vacation, and so far, I’ve checked on Israel’s breaking news at least 10 times. I am in the lap of North  American  luxury – drinking freshly brewed Peet’s coffee, being served scrambled eggs and reading for leisure by an actual fireplace …. I’ve got my Norman Rockwell on.  But for some reason, I am pulled by an inner force to the damn computer to read the next Israeli news bulletin, and post things to my social media account like “Wake up and smell the rocket-fire people.”

I was thinking about how every time I come to the States for a visit that something major goes down in Israel. Today for example, in Israel’s news, over 20 rockets were fired into southern Israel, that’s more than 110 rockets that have been fired into our country in the last 72hours…

Please indulge me for a brief moment by pausing to let that last sentence sink in a bit…

110. Rockets. Fired. Into. Civilian. Land. In. South. Israel. Last. 72 hours.

In other news, in the north of Israel, the IDF returned fire into Syria after stray Syrian mortars landed on our soil just beyond our northern border. Big news indeed as this is the first direct exchanges of fire between Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan since the Yom Kippur war.

Oh, and also, I live in the Golan Heights, about a 15 minute drive from where that mortar shell landed.

So I’m sitting here trying to figure out why something heavy always happens in Israel when I fly abroad, and then it hit me… something heavy is always going on in Israel… some kind of breaking, often tragic news. But here, in America, even though my news is coming from the same sources that I depend on in Israel, it just sounds way scarier.

I knew about the rocket fire in Gaza before we left. I touched base with my friends in the south, sent my love, prayed for quiet. I knew about the Syrian fire and the IDF’s first response before our flight left from Brussels… I was not then, and am still not now concerned about my family’s safety. I have every bit of faith in G-d and our holy IDF that we (the royal we) will be fine and ultimately safe and unaffected. But somehow, here, in the comfort of my mother’s home, I am still feeling deeply unsettled.

There is a feeling of helplessness sitting on the other side of a screen, oceans between me and the place that my heart lives, waiting for information about the place that my heart lives. That’s just vulnerable and I hate feeling vulnerable.

Just last week, I was glued to CNN reading about the devastation that was ravishing the east coast of the United States, the other place that my heart lives,  my mother’s home. Blessedly my mother’s New Jersey home was ultimately fine, but Normal Rockwell did not live here for the last 2 weeks running.  My family was without electricity for 9 days. Although I received word on their safety, I was on shplikis until her lights and heat came back on.

That’s the thing about mothers’ hearts’, they tend to beat louder and develop arrhythmia  when there is bad news amuck. There is simply something about being home that gives the heart a baseline to return to when things get a little funky; a pace maker if you will.

See, when I’m at home in Israel, it’s not that I am doing a whole lot more than I am doing now to contribute to Israeli’s political landscape. I try to stay plugged in, promote positive Israeli PR whenever possible, and occasionally opine on online about it. But mostly, I’m just home, doing my thing. At 6:30 a.m. I pack my kids their lunches, kiss their sweet freckled cheeks and send them off to school.

But as humdrum as it may be to pack lunches and kiss cheeks, there is a deep sense of purpose in that. Those bellies fed and bodies loved are essential pixels in the greater portrait of Israel.

I guess the pixels are harder to see when I’m there, inside of it, living it, smelling it, brown paper bagging it. But, here, away from home, each rocket fired, each military action committed and yes, each Israeli cheek kissed is a pixel that comes into a much sharper focus when I see it from a distance.

I am aware that this view from abroad is really a blessing, a gift to be able to feel so much, to feel so connected.

But I am also clear on this: I’d rather be living the news in my homeland, than reading about it from somewhere else.



About the Author
Sarah Zadok is a Jewish educator and lecturer, and a freelance writer. See more of her work at She lives in the Golan Heights with her husband and five children. Her life’s playlist includes Shlomo Katz, Mumford and Sons and Janis Joplin (she finds no conflict in that).