Rivka Atara Holzer
Rivka Atara Holzer

If only you knew

…but God willing you never should have to.

Hi S (not her real name), I’ve seen a few of your public posts about my country that have gained a considerable amount of traction. Firstly, I hope you’re doing okay. Secondly, I hope that of it just comes from Diaspora disconnect/ignorance. Just so you know, I’m trying to come from a place of dan lekaf zechus. I only am bothering to message you about it because I remember our childhoods, and it’s hard to believe that you really feel this way about us. As someone who has lived in the States and has a lot of family there, I can appreciate that, even in your position as a Jew, it’s very difficult to even begin to understand the reality in another country in a distant part of the world with an extremely different culture and history from what you’re familiar with. Certainly even more so when its news sites are nearly all in Hebrew and the sparse English news coverage pretty much all comes from outsiders. V’afilu pi elef when most of your information comes from social media. But if you already feel like you’ve heard all of what I’m telling you and are choosing to put it aside anyway, then none of this is at all relevant and you’re welcome to not respond if you don’t want to. I’ll get the message.

Of course, the Palestinian crisis is anything but easy, and of course, the status quo is far from ideal. And of course, racism is a disease in every society and it exists sadly in Israel. And everyone of course wants to be an advocate for the people they feel belonging to.

That being said: we are at war and I really hope you never know what that means. Iy”H you should never know what it is to run to a bomb shelter at 2 am with less than a minute to get there, jumping out of your car in the road for a siren, or to hear the explosions and bullets nearby, or getting a call from someone who passed the mall a few minutes from where you work warning you that there are violent riots and you need to close your shades and lockdown. This has all been the past several days for me and worse for our brothers and sisters in Sderot, Nahal Oz, Ashkelon, Netiv Haasara etc. and at this point even Rishon LeTziyon and Tel Aviv. My cousin has been in and out of bomb shelters every few hours for the past two days. I’m not afraid, it’s a mitzva and a huge zechus to live in Eretz Yisrael and to protect Jewish lives, and I’d give anything for am Yisrael and my home ki ein li eretz acheret, but it’s an incredibly frustrating situation. On top of it we check social media to see foreigners who have never lived here giving their out-of-touch input. There are well-meaning people on both sides but really no one has a clue.

The feeling of replaying the footage of countless lynching attempts on roads you often travel and shootings the whole week, including of medical volunteers. Of watching lies being spread by the world- one video of a lynching in Jerusalem, of course many English-language media sites cropped in order to only show the part where he loses control of his car and swerves into one of the people in a mob that had been throwing stones at his car, completely shattering all of his windows and spraying pepper spray through the broken shards.

On Yom Yerushalayim, as thousands of Jews danced in the streets to celebrate, on the Temple Mount the crowd in front of Al Aqsa waved Hamas flags, shouted “we are all Hamas”, chanted “fire at Tel Aviv”, and stockpiled boulders and makeshift weapons in the mosque to throw at security and at Jews at the Western Wall. In response to the police raid, which should’ve been avoided but was pretty much inevitable at that point, Hamas fired the first rocket at Yerushalayim, and then more, which in itself is a declaration of war. A tree on the Temple Mount caught fire because of a firecracker meant for the Jews below. The streets of Lod have turned into a godforsaken hellhole, with more cities like Akko, where a Jewish man is in serious condition after a lynching, close to that. At least 2 shuls and a talmud Torah elementary school have been set on fire in the riots, with the religious texts thrown to the floor. Jewish residents of Lod who’ve lived there for generations watched their neighbors torch their cars. The police took 45 minutes to show up the first night and made no arrests there as far as any of us know, except of a Jew who shot a man in self-defense. This is all leading to a lot of skepticism, to say the least, about coexistence. And the indiscriminate rockets don’t stop, even though around a third of them literally fall short into Gaza and cause massive damage to their own people.

Over the years I’ve fallen more and more in love with am Yisrael– the Chareidi girl who fled France and the Yerushalmi woman from the “Perushim” community that I met on bus rides; all the self-described secular Jews I’ve worked with- most of whom keep the basic laws of kashrus and taharas mishpacha as a muvan me’alav; the girl that claimed to be thoroughly irreligious but lights Shabbos candles. The Teimanim and their devotion, Iraqim and their strength, the Beta Israel and their perseverance, the Kavkazim and their resilience, the Chassidim and their loyalty, the Sfardim and their passion, the Litaim and their dedication. The Old Yishuv, ahavas olam. Datiim, ein aleihem baolam hazeh. Masortim, chaval al hazman. Hilonim, alufim b’rama acheret. Arsim? Chayim sheli balev. I learn from all of them every day. 

You don’t have to like our government, most Israelis don’t either. You don’t have to understand, but please then understand that you don’t. Remember who you’re leaving out of your narrative. And don’t believe everything you see online.

About the Author
Rivka Atara Holzer made Aliyah from Miami Beach in 2015. She attended Midreshet Lindenbaum and currently serves in the IDF.
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