My son was on a school trip today to a new wonderful park in Bet Shemesh. He and some friends were climbing up a slide when the siren went off. The three of them slid down, all in a row, and hit the pavement. They lay on the ground with their hands over their heads and bellies to the ground just as they practiced. When he came home, I asked him how it was to be outside for a siren. We have only had eight sirens here in Bet Shemesh and sometimes we forget how close we are to the action. My 8-year-old poet thought for a moment and said, “I felt uncomfortable because the ground was hot, but I felt proud to be living here, and I knew that we have such a strong tzava, and I know that HaShem wants us here, and He saves on us”. He’s Israeli–forgive his English.
He never once seemed traumatized or scared. His main emotion was pride.
We live and breathe pride here. I look around at the accomplishments of our people in the last century, and there are no words. The rebirth of a people is nothing short of miraculous. My children learn Torah in the Holy Land. They walk in the footsteps of Tanach.
There was a local scandal in Bet Shemesh this year, and my kids were discussing whether or not it was in our best interest to bring in the media and publicly condemn the corruption. One of my kids became immediately indignant and said, “What? If we don’t then we are no better than the people of Bet Shemesh from the Tanach who were ‘zilzulei b’aron HaShem’ and even their neighbors saw them and didn’t tell them to stop so they were also punished.”
They understand things on a different level here. They internalize their teachings and easily incorporate them into their realities. Holiness is everywhere.
This country is a gift to us from G-d. I realize the open miracles that occur here every single day. War just highlights them. This is a land of extremes. While we sit in bomb shelters, we sing songs and take selfies. Life goes on as best we can, but our minds and thoughts are constantly with our brothers, friends, neighbors and loved ones who are fighting an hour away for our safety and security.
When I was a junior at Ida Crown I attended the March of the Living. I too recall experiencing mainly feelings of pride and achdut. Walking the March and seeing the Israeli flags hung over the barbed wire, I knew that the next step in our collective history as a people could only be Israel. Experiencing Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel for the first time was surreal. I was so proud to be a part of something so big. A part of a chain. The two week program was really the first step in my Aliyah journey. I always wanted a front row seat to history, and I have it now. Every soldier who falls chisels a dent into our collective heart. We all feel the same pain. They are all of our sons out there.
Life here is not perfect and not without its struggles. But to quote Rav Kook, “The truly righteous do not complain about evil, but rather add justice; they do not complain about heresy, but rather add faith; they do not complain about ignorance, but rather add wisdom.” By living here and watching my children learn to appreciate this gift of a land. By daily trying to connect to HaShem and to our own collective goodness, I see how when we try together, we add more justice, faith and wisdom. This is the goal, these are the struggles, but it is all infused with such pride and gratitude every step of the way.
By Brie (Rouder) Reich, Class of ’99