Pam Alcala
Jewish Educator, Aspiring Artist, and Hopeless Idealist

The weight of resilience

Picture taken 4 months ago during my first post October 7th visit to Israel

From afar, the waves of war feel steady and unrelenting. We continue to witness a rise in antisemitism, with gruesome stories of physical violence and images of defaced Jewish spaces. We still feel as if stuck in a painful circle of pain, marked by a calendar that continues to move regardless of the weight of its flipping pages.

While this is the experience for many of us in the diaspora, the weight of resilience appears palpable in Israel. When I was there in February, only 4 months post October 7th, you could feel a nation in mourning. You could see streets covered in posters, yellow ribbons flying on cars, memorials all over the city, stark reminders of the freshness of the pain. Alternatively, you could also feel a nation united in its pain and overflowing with the trademark resilience of the Jewish people; a people that are all too familiar with a hostile world.

Fast-forward to June. I attended an Israel Experience seminar, planned as part of the graduate degree in Israel Education through The George Washington University and the iCenter. When we started the program in August, we did not anticipate the radical shift in what the Israel “experience” would mean. The program, carefully curated to balance seminar-based learning and experiential opportunities, sought to cover the many aspects of what contemporary Israel has to offer, as well as an opportunity to learn, through an Israeli lens, how to create an experiential program to bring to our own workspaces. From art-based experiences, how to curate effective learning spaces, and even hands-on Israeli cooking, the program covered it all.

What it also covered, however, was the current realities of Israel: hearing stories from survivors and those who lost loved ones, to first-hand accounts from someone released from captivity during the first ceasefire agreement since the war began. This new normal, which weighs heavily on anyone who comes across it, displayed a much different Israel from the one I had experienced 4 months earlier. The posters are there, albeit worn down from the wear and tear of weather. Memorials have not changed, but are surrounded by less visitors. The weekly rally at hostage square, which in February had held space for a country that had left its political discord and united around the families of hostages while simultaneously calling for government accountability, now split itself into two: while hundreds gathered for a moment of silence and to hear the stories of families begging the world to remembered their loved ones, thousands gathered a block away to protest the government’s lack of action.

While the heat and humidity weighs you as you walk through the streets, so does the thought of those still in captivity who are experiencing it in the depths of terror tunnels. Dizengoff square, which holds in its center a large memorial for those in captivity, also holds space for bustling businesses where many gather to beat the heat and find solace in the growing social scene. A country that has now for 8 months mourned unspeakable losses now shows the glaring weight of resilience: moving forward with a darkness that drags behind everyone but has been so expertly contained so as to not stop life from moving on. As an outsider looking in, the experience was almost disorienting. While we all aspire to be as resilient as Israelis in the face of horror, the thought of its weight feels as if the earth is swallowing you whole.

The different Israel that I have now witnessed with only 4 months difference has further cemented one main thought: as this war rages on, Israelis and Jews all over the world must remain united against hate, for none of us can carry the weight of resilience on our own.


About the Author
Pam is a Jewish Educator, Social Worker, and aspiring artist. She has spent her career working in congregational settings, DEI programming consulting, and global Jewish non-profit work. She has a passion for merging mental health, creative arts, and Jewish experiential education.
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