After six years in Israel, I recently moved to Kfar Tapuach – a growing yishuv just outside of Ariel in the heart of the Shomron. Before, during and since the move, just about everyone I meet has the same question.
“Aren’t you scared?”
Some hedge the question by asking why I chose to move and some are more direct in telling me that I should be scared. But everyone I meet who lives beyond the Shomron in the center of the country, beyond the center in the north or the south, beyond Israel in North America or Europe wonders to themselves how someone who grew up in Skokie decides to move her family to dangerous, disputed territories. Every time, I search for an answer. Depending on the audience, I invoke good schools, warm community, beautiful scenery and fresh air, real estate investments and commutes to work.
More recently, in the current matzav, it has become a daily question. Every day when I get to work, “How was your drive? Aren’t you scared?” And I mumble something about how it’s the same everywhere. There’s violence in major cities, too. My Shomron road is just like any other. Everything is random.
The truth is that I am scared. And that tension is there all the time, at home and at work, but mostly on those drives. It’s there between the Galgalatz traffic reports and top 10 and the day’s to-do list. Out of quickly learned habit I scan the sides of the road for threats, check many times that my doors are locked, leave my phone open to the Shomron panic app. And I wonder to myself about how I ended up here. I did grow up in Skokie, feeling secure and learning about Israel as a place that exists against all odds, thanks to the dedication and risks and dreams of people for generations beforehand.
In a well known part of the Pesach seder we sing שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ. It wasn’t just a song when it was written. It’s not just a song now. It’s an emotional expression of the Jewish experience for all of history. If Jewish people are being threatened in Spain or in Germany or in Israel, then it’s all of us who are threatened. And while I was fortunate to grow up in calm times and with religious freedom and personal security, that experience was part naivety and part a blip on the record of Jewish history.
For the past few months I’ve been reading with my son Minheret Hazman, a popular children’s series about two 10-year-old kids who discover a time traveling cave. Each time they enter the cave, they are transported to a different period in the history of Israel: a family home which becomes a strategic base for defending Jerusalem in the war of independence, aboard a truck in the middle of the night on its way to build kibbutz Tirat Tzvi, meeting Trumpledor in Tel Hai, and more than 60 other places. That’s how many books it takes to appreciate the number of people in so many places who actively risked and believed in establishing Israel as we know it today, just in the past 100 years.
I am scared. But mostly I am thankful. Thankful that my formative years were spent with such a feeling of confidence and security. Thankful and proud to be raising my children so close to the heartbeat of Judaism. Proud and humbled to add my name to the long list of people who have risked and feared and believed in Israel.