Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I promise…

Many times, being in others’ situation can help one understand and empathize with those who live a certain reality daily. This line has been resonating with me since last night. About three weeks ago, Hamas kidnapped three Israeli teenagers as they were returning home from their boarding school in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank. Yesterday the IDF found all three boys found lying dead in a cave near the city of Hebron.

As I was sitting on the bus, on my way to the Port in Tel Aviv, I was notified that the missing teens have been found dead. At that moment, there were several emotions spinning inside of me. I was first horrified, and deeply disturbed that the teens were killed. These past three weeks, I felt optimistic that at some point in time, the teens will be found alive and return safely to their families. I also felt sorrow for the families and the friends of the teens.

And lastly, I was petrified. 

As an Israeli-American girl living in New York City, I have always been informed on the matters occurring in Israel and have always understood the fear many Israelis undergo. Now, as the startling news was revealed, I was in the country itself. Looking at past events in Israel, I knew that Israel is now in a position to retaliate against Hamas. No one knows for sure what, where and how things will turn out. My initial reaction was to go out of my mind. I was scared, worried, anxious and uncertain of what is yet to come. As I am currently typing up this blog, I am nervous and fearful of the unexpected yet to come. As I was walking in the Port, and saw joyful families eating ice cream and enjoying themselves, I understood that life still must go on.

But then, it took many hours for me to realize that my fear is not helpful for the Jewish people and myself. Israeli citizens choose their own way to commemorate the loss of the three teenagers. I am not used to this reality. But after lots of self-reflection, I have come to understand that I must be strong. We stick together and help each other. We stay strong to help the families whose sons were murdered to cope through this difficult time. Yes, I am scared; as a matter of fact I dread hearing alarms and reading news revealing horrific events, but I must be strong during this time.

And then something came to me. I chose to go on the program I Speak Israel solely because I love Israel and want to learn how to stand up for the country in times of need. A dream of mine from a young age has been to join the army, and maybe even make aliyah one day. A week on I Speak Israel has been life changing. I have had several emotions go through my mind constantly. I have become more understanding of the Arab-Israelis through the co-existence seminar I attended, I have become proud of the Jewish people through my understanding of how we received and kept holy sites of ours, and finally I have become frustrated, confused and angry.

I believe this is the best way of learning how to advocate for Israel, to be present in the situation itself. As horrific as it may be, I know that if my safety is to be jeopardized, I will leave. Though, as I was thinking about this, I did not want to leave.

I do not want to be in NYC while my second home is facing terror. I would like to stay in Israel. On a last note, yesterday I visited Mt. Herzl and looked at the graves of those who have fought courageously for the Jewish nation. I look at this experience as one of hope and empowerment. I want to be a person who can say that I stood tall and did not fall apart.

I look up to the IDF, the Israeli police, and those who work every day to ensure the safety of Israeli civilians. I promise to myself that I will stand tall. I promise to be proactive, and not stand silently on the side due to fear. I long to initiate change. My understanding of the history of the Jewish people has made me more passionate about resolving the Israeli-Palestini an conflict and end terror in Israel. I want to embody the values of Eretz Yisrael, specifically Theodere Herzl whose vision was a State of Israel where there is peace and harmony between the diverse people. I understand it is hard to believe that peace can be achieved any time soon, but I am optimistic, as I have learned about both the struggles and the successes in building the Jewish nation. Am Yisrael Chai.

---Ilana Stein

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