Through Three Lenses

First and foremost I see Israel through the lens of any Israeli. This wave of terrorism, in which the threat of attack by knife of gun is one more thing that we wish to not have to worry about. Yes- there are many dangers out there no matter where we are. But while the calculated risk of driving on the road was always there, the added, un-calculated risk of who might be walking behind me, towards me, or waiting around the corner is one that we simply do not need.

Secondly- I see Israel through the lens of the soldiers of Mishmar Hagvul (The Border Guards or Magav as the unit is commonly known)- who are on the front line all day, every day, and have notably been present during the latest violence.

During the latter half of the second Intifada, I was that Magavnik you see today in videos and newspapers. It was a tense time in Jerusalem to be in uniform. I spent every ride to and from the Central Bus Station standing or sitting as close as possible to front door, eyeing everyone getting on and off. Every shift began with the list of warnings of terror cells working to execute suicide attacks on buses, car bombings or gun and knife attacks. While the intelligence we received made our job easier, and in certain cases prevented attacks, it was never these threats that I was most worried about. What worried me most was what we did not know. Intelligence, as we have experienced recently, stops short of getting inside someone’s head. I worried then, as I worry now, of this exact threat.

The third lens through which I have learned to see Israel over the past two years is the lens of Jewish communities around the world; specifically through the eyes of the community in Westchester. In my position as Senior Community Shaliach (Emissary) I have met and worked with individuals and organizations from across the political and social spectrum. I have spoken in synagogues across denominations and had the privilege of hearing from, speaking to and working with leaders of diverse faiths and cultures.

This diversity may seem sometimes to divide us, but it is the same diversity has the power to unite us. This week, from around the Westchester community, over six hundred people from sixty seven organizations and synagogues came together with one unifying message. On almost the spur of the moment the community postponed meetings, changed plans and mobilized, gathering under one roof not just to hear from religious leaders of various faiths, politicians and diplomats- but more importantly- to make their voice heard.

In the past two years I have learned that the lens through which I am experiencing Israel right now is one of passion and care, of love and affection. It comes from people’s kishkes, and so in times it is also a lens through which we inevitably dispute and argue on many issues.

But there are certain untouchable priorities for which a community must stand together. When it comes to the backbone of a strong, vibrant and secure Jewish Homeland, we make sure that the message is clear. No matter where we stand, Westchester stands with Israel.

About the Author
Yoav Cohen is a proud Israeli high-tech junkie, specializing in e-Learning and educational technologies. He is a former Senior Shaliach for the Jewish Agency for Israel to Westchester, NY, and a graduate and former manager of the Argov Fellows Program in Leadership and Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.
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