Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny
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The joy and pain of loving Israel

What do you do when you are scheduled to make people laugh on the saddest of days?


(Update:  Yesterday, 18 days after they disappeared, the bodies of the three boys were found.  The following opinion piece is as painful and relevant today.)

Thursday evening, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. You’ve heard the details by now.

You know the days when you don’t want to go to work? In a cubicle, at least you can fake it for 8 hours. Last night, I took the stage at the Off the Wall Comedy Basement in Jerusalem and was in no mood to try to make people laugh. What to do?

Since I first fell for Israel sometime in high school, this torrid love affair has been an emotional roller-coaster with more highs and lows than any human relationship should ever experience.

Here are just a few examples. You surely have your own.

I feel euphoric celebrating each and every Yom Haatzmaut in this country, barbecuing and partying with friends on possibly the most special day of the year to be in Israel.

I feel pained on Yom Hazikaron listening to the sad music, commemorating those who have died defending this country, possibly the most special day of the year to be in Israel.

I feel proud when Israeli hospitals treat Syrian refugees, or even yesterday, Mahmoud Abbas’s wife.

I feel like I want to bang my head against the wall when a flotilla tries to break the Gaza blockade and the world blames us for the ensuing casualties.

I feel love when I see how the citizens of this country unite in solidarity in times of trouble.

I feel a nauseous deja vu when the rockets start again from Gaza and we are condemned for responding in Operation Pillar of Defense.

I feel like I’m in a dream when Gilad Shalit comes home alive after living through an unimaginable hell.

I feel sick at a false alarm that Gilad Shalit might be released when we can’t come to an agreement.

I feel on top of the world at an Israeli wedding when “Ayn Makom Acher” plays and I really feel like there is no other place.

I feel tremendous sadness when I miss my family and friends in the United States and think about life passing by with them so far away.

Naomi Shemer said it best:
“Al hadvash v’al ha’oketz, al hamar v’hamatok”
Over the honey and the sting, over the bitter and the sweet

Welcome to Israel and to membership as part of the Jewish people. A blessing and curse, joy and pain, honey and sting.

Is it worth it? This bipolar back-and-forth?

So what do you do when you take the stage after a horrible news day? Well, in this country, you bring it up, you acknowledge the pain, and then you move on and laugh. What else can we do?

Yes, it is worth it being a part of this special place. It is always worth it. May G-d and the IDF bring these boys home soon.

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, Chabads, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. Benji has worked as a cross-cultural trainer with groups including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Masa Israel and is a popular presenter on the Limmud International circuit. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”
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