This is OUR home

I sat on a busy metro train this morning, and sobbed.
Luckily it’s summer so keeping your sunglasses on indoors is semi-acceptable.
I wiped my tears as I read painful posts about what is taking place right now in Israel.

The greatest part of that pain being the loss of Solomon Teka (z’l).

I am a person of words and feeling as if I have none, is incredibly difficult.

As Shlichim, emissaries, of the Jewish Agency for Israel, so much of what we find ourselves immersed in throughout the year is bringing complex issues of Israel to the places were we temporarily live.
We do such with compassion.
Pragmatism.
Empathy.
We each bring our own perspectives; reflecting the reality of us being one nation but with many opinions and experiences.
We are often wary of our conversations.
Will they be “used against us”?
Will the cultural differences be understood?
Or the context in general.

Of all of the images shared and heartbreaking reflections spoken during the past few days, one truly pierced my heart.
It was an image of 2 young boys.
Standing at an intersection.
And smiling.
Around them protest.
Emotion.
Anger.
Remnants of burnt tires.
There are a group of adults, possibly including their own Mothers, who in the midst of so much anguish, smile adoringly at the boys posing for the shot.
For those boys, there is still a sense of innocence and hope.
That picture said it all.
We can not change all the has happened.
We can not reverse decades of hurt.
What we can do, is make it better.
For the two young boys smiling in that photo.
To ensure that their future is different and that they can grow up feeling that they are safe.
To grow up knowing that they will be judged based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
It is known in Israel that during periods of war, as painful, devastating and unwanted as they are, they remain one of the very few times we see deep unity in Israel.
We pray for ALL of our brothers and sisters.
We cry at loss of ALL life.
We are one.
And yet at moments like this, the paradigm moves into a place of “them” “you” “us”.
Words matter.
They matter so very much.
And the word that needs to matter more than anything right now is HOME.
Israel is our home.
Not my home.
Or your home.
Not their home.
But OUR home.
And in our home, when someone is hurting, we do everything we can to pick them up. And help them heal.
Words matter.
And we start the healing by stopping to just listen.
Words matter and we need to be agents of change: from standing at the bus stop and hearing an ignorant remark all the way to our classrooms, places of work and social circles.
Words matter.
And in OUR home, I want every child, from my own to the two beautiful boys in that image to know they matter.
Their lives matter. Their history matters.
More than anything, their future matters.
I am a firm believer that sometimes you have to hit absolute rock-bottom in order to climb your way back up.
The protests of this week signify a national cry for better.
A wake up call for OUR home.
We still have the power to decide how the next chapter will be written.

Because this is OUR home and despite the pain and challenges, we are beyond blessed to have it. Now is the time to make it the home we need it to be be.

About the Author
Michelle Rojas-Tal is the Jewish Agency's central Shlicha to Hillel International and Director of the Israel Fellows Program. The Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows program brings nearly 80 young emissaries to campuses across North America and close to a dozen across the globe to serve on college campuses. Michelle and her family are currently on Shlichut and living in the greater D.C. area from Jerusalem. She has devoted her life's work to Israel and the Jewish people.
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