Batya Brownstein

On raising our kids in a warzone- Yom Hazikaron ponderings

Yom Hazikaron, 2023.

Eli’an is six this year. It’s the first time I’ve had to handle the questions I feared for so long.

Not her questions – mine.

HOW do we raise children here? How do we raise them to be kind, and protect themselves, and be thoughtful, considerate people? How do I shield my daughter from the tension bubble that is our life in Jerusalem? How do I instill my values in her in a place where I have no ideological home or representation?

When I was a year older than she was, my parents made the decision to create a center of life in Israel. I guess they weighed material comforts against ideology, and I suppose they discussed things like money and safety and community.

I’ve never had to decide where to live/ I was brought here and here I stayed. Yesterday was my 27th birthday and I reflected on my disillusionment from all things holy, first and foremost, the State of Israel, which as a self-loathing young Israeli (albeit with English as a native tongue) I’ve come to resent, in polite terms.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll celebrate Yom Haaztmaut tomorrow and I get the warm fuzzies when I see the flag.

But I read the news and I live in arguably the most complex city in the world. I see the rich getting richer and the lazy getting fed and the little people slipping further and further past the point of financial redemption. I see the systemic racism, the religious oppression and a failing electoral system.

Yesterday I realized that I’m probably mature enough to admit that my dream of a life in the capitalist utopia of the US is a myth that I tell myself in order to feel like if I just wanted a better life, I could have it. That’s a lie.

I think that raising Eli’an in the US would not only fail to resolve my questions, but would raise more: How are traditional Jewish values compatible with life in the diaspora? How can I ensure my child’s Jewish education and prevent her from intermarrying? How can I inspire her to embrace, develop and love her identity as a Jewish girl?

Everyone reaches a point when they ask themselves where they want to live. What type of environment they want, what kind of friends, where the best career opportunities will be and where they want to start and raise families – or not.

With all of the dissonance that comes with my life here, how could I ever feel at home anywhere else?

Today, even the ads are sad. I went to watch the live stream from Har Herzl, and first spent 60 seconds being reminded that the girlfriends of fallen soldiers need support too. I thought, how much more of a meaningful concept than a Memorial Day barbecue. Especially having sent two different boyfriends to war as a teenager.

I hope today I’ll be inspired to free myself of the fake news I’ve been telling myself, that there’s something better out there. If I’m going to live here, I want to live here with intention. And how could I ever live anywhere else?

About the Author
Born to a French mother and American father, Batya came to Israel at a young age. Upon graduating high school in Israel, she spent her military service in the IDF's Foreign Press Branch. She now studies International Relations and Political Science (B.A.) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lives in Jerusalem with her beautiful daughter.
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