I felt a little trepidation bringing my nearly 1-year old to Jerusalem after the violence that transpired in the Old City last week.
And, yet, as a former Jerusalemite, I reminded myself that this city has seen and preserved through so much worse — a night of friction seemed rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Now that COVID-19 is mostly behind us, with infection rates at all-time lows, I was in town to attend my first in-person event in over a year — the Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion prize ceremony.
The award honors outstanding Anglo Olim who made a significant contribution to Israeli society. From Ambassador Dore Gold to NBA coach David Blatt to a rising star advocating for women empowerment, Zo Flamenbaum, the ceremony showcased the very people that make Israel stand out on the world stage.
As someone who was born here, but lived most of my life abroad, I’ve always considered myself an honorary Olah so spending the day with these outstanding Olim seemed well worth the schlep.
In the morning before the event, I took my son to the Mahne Yehuda market. It was his first visit to the world-famous shuk and he was delighted by the vivid colors of the produce, the loud hollering from vendors selling their wares and the interesting folks who weave in and out. It seemed — in that moment at least — that the city regained some sense of normalcy.
When I asked one of the vendors if he was shaken up from the night before, he shrugged and said, “I’ve seen worse.”
A few hours later, the event began. Around 150 people gathered at the Tower of David Museum celebrating the privilege of Aliyah. Despite the tensions of the past few days, there truly was a celebratory spirit in the air. Winners both young and old arrived with their family who was shepping nachas over their relative’s achievements.
As the ceremony drew to a close and the sun began to set, I said my goodbyes and left the venue, my phone began to buzz incessantly. A rocket attack in Rishon LeZion. A rocket attack in Tel Aviv. A rocket attack in Givatayim. A rocket attack in Herzliya — where I lived.
Coming down from the exhilarating high of these inspirational Aliyah stories only to be faced with the harsh reality that many Israelis have to rush to their bomb shelters is the kind of emotional whiplash Israelis are sadly far too familiar with.
But a couple days later, as I reflect on that night, I believe there is something rather poignant about celebrating the achievements of Olim as the country goes through such turmoil — Aliyah can be difficult. Many olim leave their comforts of home, friends and family and sacrifice a lot to be here. When we do so, we understand that these frequent spurts of unrest are part of life in Israel. War and loss pepper the memories of most people who live here, and we only become truly Israeli when we accept that.
That night, each and every one of those olim expressed their joy of not only being part of the fabric of Israel, but of enhancing its colors so it transforms to the bright, beautiful kaleidoscope we know today.