Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Israel is My Country

Wish I could really clarify and put it into a sentence.

My coworkers don't really get why I say that Israel is my home-- after all, I was born and raised in America. I have a social security number, an American passport, driver's license-- I don't have an Israeli identification number, passport, or license...and yet, if it came down to making a choice between being an American citizen and an Israeli citizen, I'd probably say Israeli. I don't want to give up my American citizenship-- I am grateful to be an American citizen and live in America and have the protection and freedom to say and do what I want. When I'm in Israel, I identify myself as an American-- when I contacted places in Israel about OT, I started with, "Hi, I'm an OT from the US." And that's how I was introduced: "This is Lauren. She's an OT from the US..." When I open my mouth, I'm easily identified as a foreigner and once I say, "Hi," I am immediately known as North American, probably assumed to be an American because there are so many of us there... See? I just did it-- "so many of us." "Us " being Americans.

It's a dual identity that I struggle with, since I'm not yet Israeli. I am not Israeli, but I feel so connected...I lived there for only a short while, but I've been raised with Israel in my home, that it's mine. I've been singing Israeli songs and watching Rechov Sumsum (Sesame Street, Israeli style) since I was born; Yerushalyim Shel Zahav is beautiful, but Naomi Shemer can get on your nerves after a while. Barbaaba is a cute but sad song. I grew up with the culture and knowing that my parents were there and helped shape Israel, in however a small way. I call my parents Ima and Abba (as well as Mom and Dad-- I switch off all the time). My Abba rolls the reish in "breishit" during kiddush. I've developed an accent that's somewhere between American and Israeli when I speak Hebrew. I get asked, "Wait, didn't you make aliyah already?" and "Why are you going back [to America]?" It's...I'm not Israeli. I haven't lost friends and relatives in piguim or wars. I haven't experienced what it's like to live life after an attack-- actually, I sort of have. The night of Merkaz HaRav, I went back to town for a bit then did a shift. It felt surreal, but at the same time, it was life. I wasn't about to not do something because some idiot went on a rampage.

I worry now because I know my friends are in Gaza. I called a friend and said, "Hey, I'm here, are you around?" and he said, "No, I'm in the Army." Oh. Right, then, I guess I'm not seeing you this time. Another friend arranged a bowling trip and in the end couldn't go because he was needed in the South because of the rockets. My friends and their families are right in the firing line. My brother-in-law's brother's unit is a Gaza unit; we used to joke about not telling our moms about the places we were because they would worry. He's not in for medical reasons, but his unit is. I know what it's like to take a bus that you hear about getting overturned the next day and being able to get on the same line when you're back.

Am I Israeli? Not technically. But do I feel it? Definitely. It's a mentality, a resilience, that you don't see in many places. On September 11, 2001, NYC stopped. In Jerusalem, two hours after the shooting at Merkaz HaRav, people were back in town-- actually, town was never really empty, just a little quieter that night. It's sad in some ways, but it shows an endurance and an ability and desire to live as normal a life as possible, even with the possibility that someone you know might turn around and kill you.

Unfortunately this past trip I was not able to go down to the South because I had appointments and did not have the 26 hours off that I needed to be able to go. But I believe firmly in what Israel is doing-- that doesn't mean that I like that innocents are being hurt-- no, but Israel is taking all the steps she can to minimize innocent casualties.
What other country drops leaflets and sends text messages to cell phones, letting the people in the area know that they will be attacking and they should leave? Why shoudl Israel go in in foot-- it risks Israeli soldiers' lives-- it's much safer for them to bomb from the sky. Israel is...I think Israel has exercised remarkable restraint over the past years. Missles have been falling in Sderot for 7 or 9 years-- I don't remember the exact number. The playgrounds there have recently been make them safe for the children to play in while the missles fall...young children there don't know a life without sirens and 15-second warnings. Does Hamas drop leaflets and send text messages to the people in Sderot and Ashkelon and DImona and Beer Sheva when they will be attacking? Uh-- no. Oh, yeah, and Israel stops attacks for 3 hours every day to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Nevermind that Hamas is taking the supplies. Can you imgine America saying, "All right, country x, we'll stop our attacks for 3 hours a day to let supplies in to you." No, I can't either.

This is why Israel is my country. No other country is so damn moral but gets condemmed by the world for still somehow being wrong.

How did this turn into politics? (retorical)

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