Zev Shandalov

Voices from the Past

As each day of Operation Protective Edge here in Israel passes, I hear from more and more friends from my past, voices from my past who live in Chutz La’aretz (outside of Israel). In some cases, I have not heard from some of these people for many years.  Whether these voices are from my days when I worked (for 17 years) in the business world or from my days  serving as a Rav in a shul, all of those who wrote had similar concerns: Are you alright? They read news reports and see video of what is happening here and want to “check in” and see if we are doing ok. In this very small world, made smaller every day by the internet and instant communication, when something occurs on one side of the planet, the ripple affect on the other side of the globe is almost instantaneous.

Nearly all the emails (or phone calls) that I have received have been the same: wanting to know how we are doing PHYSICALLY…how we are doing EMOTIONALLY and how we are all coping. While MY answers may not be the same as one who is under a constant barrage of missiles, I reassure all of my correspondents that we are doing ok, Baruch Hashem. No, it is not easy, but we remain strong. It takes an emotional toll, but we all rely on each other for strength.

And in almost every single one of these emails, there is either an overt or covert question somewhere in the body of the note: “Why do you live there?” The writers are perplexed why someone would choose to live in a place that seems so “dangerous” and seems to put families in harm’s way. “Wouldn’t it be easier,” they ask, ” to come back to the USA and live in peace rather than in Israel under threat of war?”

First, I must disabuse them of the notion that to live in the USA (or Europe) is safer. All one need do to understand this is to read the news reports of the shootings, killings, anti-Semitic activity etc that are occuring all over the world. Muslim prayer rugs found on the USA-Mexico border; a pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles is assaulted by extremists; a synagogue in Paris is surrounded by a blood-thirsty crowd; over 60 shootings and a number of dead in random gun violence in a major Midwestern city (in the course of one week) and so forth….do not think for one minute that (especially as a Jew) you are so much safer “out there” than here. As comfortable as one might be living outside the Land of Israel, you are still only a “visitor” — it is not your HOMELAND.

My comments to them continue : And, truth be told, that is why I would not for a single second, consider living anywhere else outside of Israel! Are we subjected to various attacks and wars at times? Yes, of course we are, and we are always painted as the “bad guy” in those actions. So what? Does the world media seem heavily biased against us? Yes, it does, but so what?

I would rather live at home with my extended Jewish family, in the Land that Hashem Himself chose to make His Earthly home rather than living OUTSIDE of His home. There is a sense of belonging; a sense of purpose; a sense of history and a sense of future.

Outside of Israel, you sense this current situation in your home, your shul, your local Jewish community center and perhaps at your workplace (depending on what line of work you are in). But once you step outside of those areas, there is no longer “a situation.” Yet, here, the so-called “situation” is in your home, your workplace, on the bus, in the makolet and on your TV. It permeates your life and you feel that you are all in this together.

So, no, I would not want to live anywhere else: neither in times of peace nor in times of war. This is HOME. And indeed, there’s no place like home.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.