Ariella Cohen

We’re Still Here

The Kotel on April 14th, 2024 (image courtesy of author)
The Kotel on April 14th, 2024 (image courtesy of author)

By now it is common knowledge that the Jews are a resilient people, and this is true even more so for Israelis. This is always something that I’ve known intellectually, but it hits home differently after seeing it in action. The longer I am in Israel, the more I see it and feel it.

Walking through the streets of Jerusalem last Sunday, after a night of being bombarded with rockets from Iran, I was somewhat surprised to see that the streets were so full of people. As if nothing had happened just hours beforehand. It was really hard for me to register what I was seeing because logically it didn’t make sense. Granted I myself was one of those people walking down the street, but seeing so many others out and about was still unexpected.

How is it that people spent the night in the bomb shelter and are now going to work? How can people be going out for brunch after such a night? But then again, how can they not? How can we not continue to live life when this is not a one time occurrence?

I kept going back and forth about this is my head. The dichotomy was just so striking. But then I realized that life in Israel is all about living with that dichotomy. People in general tend to run away from scary things. But Israelis run toward them. That’s not normal. But what is normal these days? I don’t even know anymore.

One thing I do know is that some of my world views have shifted significantly since I moved to Israel almost eight months ago. This is due to the facts that I now live in Israel and that the world has drastically changed in that time. I was never the type of person who believed that all Jews should live in Israel. I was a bit more passive about it. Let people do what they want if it isn’t bothering anybody else. But I don’t feel that way anymore. At this point I can’t really understand how people can be living outside of Israel without any thoughts of ever moving here. I don’t see a future there anymore.

It’s weird for me to think like this because I never have before. I got to talking with someone on the bus a little while back, and somehow I ended up giving a whole rant on this topic. It felt more like a conversation than a rant at the time, but looking back it was definitely the latter. If I’m doing that without even realizing it, then I guess I feel strongly about it.

I’m obviously aware that it’s not practical for every Jew in the entire world to pick up and move to a foreign country right this second. Some people certainly have good reason to not live in Israel, and also it takes a significant amount of time and effort to move across the world. It’s not something that comes together overnight. I know from experience.

What’s hard for me to grasp though is that people still see a future for themselves in place like America. The country is basically crumbling on itself. The choice of candidates for the next presidential election speaks for itself. I’ve heard recently from too many people that they no longer feel comfortable wearing a kippah in public or that there are certain places in America and elsewhere that they won’t wear a Jewish star. In Israel you can wear your Jewishness loud and proud. Our enemies here don’t care about external symbols.

Israel and the Jews are not going anywhere. Pesach is coming up really soon, and we’ll be reciting “והיא שעמדהat the seder. The words that I keep coming back to from that paragraph are “והקבה מצילנו מידם.” My level of fear of the unknown has really dropped as I think more and more about this phrase. Lots of people have tried to destroy us, but we’re still here. We as a nation and we as a land. Our future is here.

I was talking with someone recently about how when you are in America (or other areas outside of Israel,) you get used to your comforts. And you forget what it feels like to be in Israel. I’ve experienced this myself many times. I would be in Israel thinking that I would want to live here some day, and then I’d go back to America and decide that maybe I would just stay there. This time around though, I am here to stay. I currently have no interest in going back to visit, but I am not nixing the idea. I do know that I won’t be going back to live there. While I do miss certain people and things, I really don’t see a place for myself over there anymore.

If you live outside of Israel and don’t agree with me right now, that might change once you move here. It did for me.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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