Emily Shrode
Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellow

Hoping for Peace in the Country I Love

Author's photo of the sunset in Sderot. Photo courtesy of the author.
Author's photo of the sunset in Sderot. Photo courtesy of the author.
Author’s photo of the Path to Peace project in which participants can place mosaic pieces along the border wall. Notice the holes at the top are designed intentionally with the hope that one day there will be peace and this wall can be removed easily. Photo courtesy of the author.
Evolve Leadership Fellows cohort at the border wall between Israel and Gaza. Author is at far right. Photo courtesy of the author.
Author’s photo of a collection of detonated rocket shells. The rusty looking pipes were launched into Israel by terrorists. Meanwhile the larger silver rocket shells are from Israel’s iron dome used to protect civilians from the enemy rockets. While it’s an amazing technology, gravity is still a thing. And these rocket shells unfortunately need to land somewhere. Photo courtesy of the author.

It was the trip of a lifetime when I visited Israel last November with the other young Hadassah members chosen for the organization’s prestigious new leadership development program, Evolve Leadership Fellows. An important part of the fellowship was going to Israel to get a feel for the country and to see for ourselves the amazing things that Hadassah does at its two hospitals in Jerusalem and its two youth villages, Hadassah Neurim and Meir Shfeyah, which provide education and a home for at-risk youth.

On our fourth day in Israel, I, along with my Evolve Fellowship cohort, had the opportunity to drive from Tel Aviv to an Israeli moshav, a cooperative farming community, called Netiv HaAsara. Our goal that day was to understand Israel as a whole on a deeper level.

Netiv HaAsara is located within the Gaza envelope, making it one of the Israeli communities closest to the Gaza border. A local woman named Yoni met us as we got out of the car. We sat down and she described what growing up on that moshav was like. Living in such a tightly knit community sounded idyllic to me. But I wondered how you could live such a peaceful life when your neighborhood shares a border with an unwelcoming neighbor?

Yoni told us about the time a Hamas rocket hit her home. After her family left the bomb shelter, her mother looked incredulous as she took in the damage to their living room and said “I just cleaned.”

Yoni’s story made me chuckle. But it also helped me to understand what it’s like to live in Israel and the attitude with which Israelis approach life. I find Israelis to be very brave and direct, while also generous and fun-loving.

In our tour of the moshav, I saw remains of exploded rockets. The rockets looked like they had been made from pipes that were meant to carry water to homes and businesses.

I then understood the evil that Israel was fighting.

I walked up to the border wall and added my piece of mosaic to the Path to Peace Project, through which thousands of people have expressed their hopes for peace and love. When I glanced above the wall, I saw a Hamas tower, standing forebodingly on the other side. Written in red Hebrew letters, a sign at the top reads “we are coming to destroy you.” I couldn’t see who was in the tower at the time watching me observe them. Thinking about that moment, especially after October 7th makes me shudder.

We returned to Tel Aviv after the sun had already set. I managed to slip away from the group to experience Tel Aviv nightlife for myself. I met a handsome local, a few years younger than I, who was serving in the military. Until then, I had never met someone so young with hands that felt so rough to the touch. I looked into his warm eyes and, in that moment, I understood:

This is who they send to fight the war on behalf of Jews everywhere.

I’m grateful for our meeting that night! I will always look back fondly on our brief relationship.

When I started practicing Judaism, I began to wonder what it really means for the Jewish people to have the State of Israel. Why was it that we fight this never-ending war?

Seeing the country for myself answered that question. We fight to protect each other. We fight because there truly is no other home for the Jewish people. And we fight because there is always hope.

Earlier that day, we stopped in Sderot to watch a bittersweet sunset at a memorial site, dedicated to fallen Israel Defense Force soldiers. They had been ambushed on that spot by terrorists who sprung out from underground tunnels. Sadly, there are many memorial sites like this around Israel.

Personally, I think the sunsets in Israel are very complicated. They are incredibly beautiful, yet at the same time, they hold the memory of the pain and violence the Jewish people endure in order to protect one another and their homeland. As the sun dimmed, brilliant colors painted the sky. Those colors held the promise that the sun would come again to bring new light.

That sunset reminded me to be my own light. In my own way.

When I returned to Texas, people asked me what I did during my time in Israel. The simplest answer I could give was this: I fell in love.

May we see a day when war and bloodshed cease.

Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellow Emily Shrode brings fresh eyes to the organization, now beginning its 113th year. On the local level, Emily serves on the board of Hadassah's chapter in Austin, Texas, where she currently resides and is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. For Emily, Hadassah is a means of spreading hope and healing the world. She hopes to share her passion for the mission of Hadassah with others throughout her continued involvement in the organization. As a community builder, Emily sees value in what Hadassah does on the local level by providing a space for women to grow meaningful connections with one another.
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