Israel is Personal
It has been recently brought to my attention that I post too much about Israel on Facebook. I guess it’s a real downer to be reminded that half a world away a vicious and deadly conflict is taking place. Perhaps somewhere a memo has circulated that Facebook is best suited for selfies and photos of elaborately arranged meals. Would you prefer reminders of palm trees and sunsets?
The thing is, it’s personal.
I agree that the present conflict in Syria is horrible, and I wish there was more outcry about it — and yes, please DO clutter up my newsfeed with updates of what is happening there because I admit to being so consumed with the Israeli conflict that I’ve become a little myopic. I wish there was more outcry and information about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and with Ebola. These are all scary situations, and I don’t mind if they show up in my Facebook feed. I hate seeing images of suffering animals, but I even don’t mind information about a petition I can sign to save one or which beauty companies to avoid over animal testing.
Those are all okay, and even appreciated, but they still aren’t personal.
Israel is personal.
First of all, nothing is going to make shit get real like going through an actual air raid siren. This is pure speculation, of course, but I would bet that one air raid siren would make you lose a tiny bit of interest in those photos of palm trees and elaborately arranged meals.
Because not only does hearing that air raid siren — and then hearing the subsequent shrapnel fall a few blocks away — remind you that this is all very real and not purely speculative, but that your life is in danger. That, if it were not for the Iron Dome, you might be dead. That, if it were not for the IDF soldiers, you might be dead.
So you get real invested, real fast.
And then of course there’s the personal fact that, even though I’ve lived in seven different cities over the course of my lifetime, Israel has been a constant. Pretty much once a year (and sometimes twice), I’ve gone to visit. The apartment where my mother lives used to belong to my grandmother’s, so that apartment, and that neighborhood, and that street, and those beaches, and those shops have been in my life more consistently than anything else. Even though it’s never been home, Israel has always felt like it. I’ve never lived there full-time, but it’s been a full-time presence in my life.
As anyone who has been there will tell you, there’s something magical about Israel. Go there once and you’ll get it. It might feel like home to you, too. It’s a special place with an energy and a warmth and a vibrancy unlike any other.
America ignores her veterans when they come back from war. Want to know what Israel does?
An IDF Soldier’s Letter From the Front:
(Original in Hebrew….translated into English with a few comments from the translator.)
Having been down there a few times, I can personally vouch for the accuracy of this letter. On a personal note, before going down South last night for a pizza delivery to IDF soldiers, my daughter gave me a stack of letters and pictures from children in our community to distribute to the delivery. After giving the soldiers 60 pies, I said, “Wait, I have to give you the letters from the kids…” A soldier stopped everything and said — “THOSE are the most important…much more than the pizza…and hugged a pile of letters that I gave him.”Am Yisrael Chai!–Jameel (the translator)
A soldier on the border writes:
What’s happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and beggars the imagination.
Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They’re coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.
Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but be residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn’t organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.
They’re writing letters and blessings, how they’re thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they’re as perfect and comforting as possible.
Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha’Ta’Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.
The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers’ names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.
Soroka Hospital (in Be’er Sheva) today looks like a 5 star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the MasterChef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.
It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously Kosher. Shachrit, Mincha, and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. They’re giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It’s become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [Special Forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They’re gaining both a Mitzva and a high quality undershirt. We’ve started calling them “Shachpatzitzti” (a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We’re having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.
We’re making lots of jokes at Hamas’s expensive and without politics. There’s lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someone give a class on Likutei MoharaN (Breslov).
How happy is the nation that is like this.
You’re going to tell me you can read that and not get emotionally invested and just a bit teary-eyed? Now what if these men, these soldiers losing their lives, felt like family? Because that’s another thing about Israel. There is such a tight sense of community (largely by necessity, because there’s always a feeling that it’s them against the world but also by sheer virtue of its tiny size — everyone really does know everyone else, even if only by one or two degrees of separation) that these soldiers do feel like family. I have friends of friends and brothers of friends who are/were in Gaza. I have family who might be next on the reserve list.
That’s going to make it real.
Then, of course, this intensely personal situation is compounded by the fact that, on top of all this, you have to defend Israel to the world. That, thanks to the tremendous amount of misinformation, biased media and poor PR by the state of Israel, there are many misconceptions and inaccuracies over what is actually going on over there.
For instance, even the New York Times simply has no photos of Hamas: “Of the 37 images that make up the Times’ most recent three slide shows of photos from the conflict, there’s not a single shot of a Hamas rocket launch (though more than 2,800 rockets have been fired at Israel) or of Hamas fighters using mosques, schools or hospitals as bases of operation.”
As this recent article points out, “With the hundreds of journalists there, including numerous photojournalists with experience covering bloody conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan, how is it that they aren’t able to get any images of Palestinians fighting the Israelis? We know these images exist — unless you believe the Israel Defense Forces is fabricating its footage of Palestinian fighters using ambulances to transport rockets, firing from hospitals and mosques, and launching rockets at Israel.”So this is also why I post. Because even if most of my friends don’t care and would rather see selfies and photos of my lunch, I believe that at least a small number do want to know what is happening over there. And maybe that small number will appreciate my attempts to try and correct some of the misinformation out there. And if they are my friends, maybe they will recognize why this conflict matters so much to me.
The lurking anti-Semitism is even more terrifying to me than people who simply prefer not to care, but hopefully those people have already blocked me from their feed after the sheer quantity of my posts. I would say that I hope those people don’t count as my friends, but I’ve blocked enough people from my feed to know that they do.
Until this is over, until I can go back to palm trees and sunsets, I’m sorry if I can’t stop thinking about what is happening in the Middle East and around the world. I’m sorry if it is depressing. But it’s personal.