In a World of Silence

Silence. Just silence. Silence from the world. Yet each morning I wake up to an abundant amount of striking notifications. JPOST. Times of Israel. Ynetnews. Haaretz. IsraelHayom. You name it, I read it.

What’s happening today? More stabbings? Another shooting? The real question though isn’t what is happening right now. The question is why isn’t the world reacting to what is going on?

Imagine for a minute that this was happening in your state. Imagine the fear of walking out of your own house everyday, not because of a big test you were about to take or the hurricane that was predicted to hit your area. Imagine walking out of your home and fearing that someone with a knife could approach you at any moment.

Would we hear about it? Would we get both sides of the story?

You can only imagine the frustration that I, as an American Jew who has traveled to Israel several times, am going through. For over a week now, my attention has been directed to the news rather than the midterms I should be studying for.

Article after article, I read and analyze so I can try to understand all that I can. The hardest part of being an American Jew, and, more importantly, a Zionist, isn’t what others think about Israel. The hardest part is having parents who don’t fully understand why my heart is in the east.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my parents don’t support me, because they stand behind me no matter what. I would not be where I am today without them. It’s more of the fact that my mom has only been to Israel once and my dad has never been, so like most Americans in the world, they worry. They see Israel as it is portrayed on the news, as a place of terror.

When talk of the third intifada came up, I couldn’t remain silent anymore. I needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling. But who? I called my dad on my way to class and told him everything that had been going on the past week. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN, the raising of the Palestinian flag, the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in the West Bank, the Old City being shut down, the ban at the Temple Mount, the stabbings, the shootings, everything.

I finally took a breath. “What are you talking about, Erica?” my dad questioned. I froze in the middle of campus. “You mean you don’t know any of this?” I replied. My dad didn’t know anything. How could this be? What is happening to the world? Why is the world silent?

Let’s be real, there’s a lot more to say about the current situation in Israel and there are many opinions that should be shared. From personal experience, I can’t help but remain curious about both sides of the situation.

This summer, I, along with 90 other Americans and Israelis, had the honor and privilege of being welcomed into the home of an Arab family living outside of Jerusalem. Together we had a discussion about what life for Arab Israeli’s is like as the minority; something Jews in America can relate to. We listened, we engaged and we learned. It was beautiful to see.

So, what perpetuates the terror that exists between Palestinians and Israelis? There we were sitting together talking about both of our religions and answering questions without any judgment. It was shocking to see similarities that we both had. We got along. So what’s missing?

From a variety of Israeli websites, I read about what is happening every day. Today was different. I did something I have never done before. I read Al Jazeera, a website that Palestinians get their news from. Titles that read “Israeli police kill more Palestinians in Jerusalem,” “Palestinians yearn for a ray of hope,” “Mapping the dead in latest Israeli-Palestinian violence” and “Islamic Movement leader: Israel to blame for violence” populated the entire site. Article after article, I was amazed, and I needed to let out this steam that was building up inside of me. I needed to talk to someone who understood the situation.

Finally, I was able to talk about it all. I sat down with two staff members at the University of Indiana Hillel. I started firing questions. “Do you think this has to do with the Palestinian President declaring that Palestinians would no longer be bound to the Oslo Accords at the UN?” “Do you think this would’ve happened if they didn’t raise the Palestinian flag for the first time ever right after his speech?” “What about the couple who was killed in the West Bank?”

Did I really just say all of that? A few months ago, I barely knew what was going on in the world. Now I am making timelines of what’s happening each day rather than studying for my Statistics exam next week.

“What about birthright? Do you think your trip in December will be canceled?” I asked. Megan, the programs director at Hillel, explained that the birthright trip would not be canceled. Nothing was keeping us away from our country. Israel is strong and Israel is here to stay forever, just like Bibi said at the Knesset earlier this week.

Our conversation didn’t stop. We delved deeper as we began to talk about what life would be like for us in Israel. Would we still move there in a time like this? We talked about Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that helps Americans make aliyah, the move to Israel.

For anyone who knows me, it is a running joke that people ask me when I will finally make aliyah. I’ve talked about it for years and think about it all the time, however, I never actually looked into a program. There are many reasons people make aliyah. But what is mine? That seems to be the question.

Israel is home. Yes, I do believe that, but I also don’t believe that my love for Eretz Yisrael comes from only the feeling of being at home. My love for Israel goes beyond that. It goes back to what it means to be a Jew. When I really think about being Jewish, I think about how it connects me to so many things. To me, Judaism is so much more than a religion. Judaism involves a language, a history, a culture, a people, and our homeland, Israel. Israel is not only my home, but it is the home of the Jewish people. It’s where I feel the safest.

Over the past few months, we have seen several shootings. Just this past week there were two shootings in one day. So why is it that when I read about what’s going on in Israel, all I can think about is why am I not there with my friends, my family? I’m not saying Israel is perfect, because there is no such country. However, Israel is a country that brings people from all over the world together.

Some day, this wave of terror will die down. And some day, I will be on that aliyah flight to Israel.

So, just like every other night, I close my computer when its time to go to bed. I leave each tab open with a different website for me to read when I wake up the next day.

Tonight, I close my computer leaving another tab open. Nefesh B’Nefesh. The world might be silent about what’s going on in Israel, but I won’t be silent to the world.

About the Author
Erica Barish was born and raised in New Jersey. She is currently studying Jewish Studies and Youth Development at Indiana University. She will be graduating in 2017 and hopefully making Aliyah sometime after.