Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rain and Rocketfire: Perspectives At Home and Abroad

By Lily Greenberg Call

(The first part of this blog was written last Tuesday, as I was waiting to board my final flight home from Israel. The second part was written July 21, nearly a week later).

It's 5:33 pm EST, July 15, and I am sitting at gate C61 in the JFK airport. Why, you may ask, am I not at home like every other kid on the ISI trip? You can ask G-d about that one, because even I'm not sure what happened last night. I was ready to go home after spending nearly all day traveling from Tel Aviv to Brussels to New York, and I had said my goodbyes to the remaining travelers from our lovely group. I was mentally and physically beyond ready to be back at home with my family and my own bed. I boarded my plane at 4 pm Monday evening, surveying my fellow passengers and my seat. Middle, which is not ideal, but I was in between two nice looking gentlemen. Fine, I could handle this. 5 hours of flying was nothing compared to the 13 I had just done. I settled down in my seat and after about 30 minutes of waiting, realized that we hadn't moved at all. I started to get anxious. I could feel in my gut that something about this flight wasn't going to work out well, but a combination of exhaustion and paranoia caused me to start getting very, very nervous. I actually enjoy flying very much, so this paranoia was a new experience for me. Turns out my gut instincts were correct. As the minutes went by, my new friend and seatmate Justin and I got progressively annoyed. Finally, we heard the rumble of the intercom and the pilot's voice above us. "Hi folks, looks like it's rush-hour at JFK. The summer storms are coming in so everyone's trying to get out on time. We're just waiting for some lanes to clear up". Okay, no problem, I thought. I settled in to wait for another 30-45 minutes.

Flashforward to 4 hours later: there I was, still sitting in seat 14B. I repeat, 4 hours later, we had yet to be airborne. Unfortunately, I was only at the beginning of what would become a night from Delta Hell: 5 hours stuck on a plane, 2 hours waiting in the airport to see if my flight was canceled because of the storms (of course it was), 10 hours in the JFK Holiday Inn Express, another 4 hours in the airport, and then, 2 more hours waiting on the Tarmac.


By the time I landed in San Diego, 27 hours later than I was originally supposed to, I was literally skipping down to the baggage claim. I had never been more happy to be back in sunny San Diego in my entire life. It's actually somewhat humorous to read what I wrote a week ago. The situation itself was hardly funny. I was exhausted, and more than ready to get home. But now, after Operation Protective Edge has escalated into a full-blown ground invasion and the death tolls have risen to over 500 Palestinians and over 25 Israeli soldiers, my airport debacle seems like a speedbump in comparison to what's happening across the world. It wasn't exactly easy coming back to America-- I remember sitting in an airport restaurant in a daze, trying to process the culture shock that I was experiencing. I realized how much Americans take for granted, not that I can really blame us. Americans are realistic within our reality-- but our reality is so idealized compared to what most of the world faces on a daily basis. While on the trip, as the situation around us escalated, a friend of mine was constantly making jokes about our still being alive in order to lighten the mood. As simplistic and hyperbolic as "at least we're all still alive!" jokes are, there's something to be said about that perspective. If there's anything that being in a war zone for a week taught me, it's that when there's a possibility that a rocket could hit the area you're standing in, any other problems in your life become secondary. If everyone you love in the world is alive, healthy, and safe, you're luckier than most people. I hate to sound like a self-help guru, but it's true. I realized on this trip that for me, holiness is about appreciation. Sometimes, you have to be denied something, like safety and security, in order to fully appreciate it.
While I was in the country, I didn't appreciate how lucky I was to be in Israel during such a crucial time, and I don't think it fully hit me until a few days back in the States. As cliche as it is, I feel a completely renewed sense of duty and obligation to advocate for Israel right now, especially on social media, and I feel more prepared than ever. As a liberal, pro-Israel person, it hurts me to see my liberal friends posting things like #FreeGaza and very misleading, supposedly "informational" videos on Facebook and Twitter. I was wondering the other day, if I wasn't Jewish and had no connection to the state of Israel, would I support Israel? Hamas has created the perfect media recipe to gain the support of bleeding heart liberals like myself: dead Palestinian children and civilian casualities, mixed with phrases like "occupation", "human rights violation", and "genocide". The thing is that once you look past the media's facade, you realize that the Palestinian people are suffering mostly because of their choice of elected leadership. I feel bad for them, and each Palestinian death hurts my soul. No one wants to live the lives they are living. But I feel equally as bad for the 1 million Israelis who have under a minute to seek shelter from rocket fire, and I refuse to apologize for the fact that the Israeli government has invested in life-saving technologies like the Iron Dome. I refuse to apologize for protecting the sanctity of life. That's as liberal as it gets.
At the very beginning of the trip, I wanted to write a piece about how culture was the root of the Israeli-Palestinain conflict. I thought I had it all figured out by day two, and if you've been following the blog you'll know that this perspective of mine quickly changed. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for why this war is taking place. I wish I did, and I wish it would end. The only thing we can do is learn from it-- learn to appreciate all of the beautiful things in our life, and not to worry so much about things that are so small in the grand scheme of life. We in America need to use our voices, not our weapons, to fight. It's the only way to create a road that can lead to peace.

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