My heart is ALWAYS heavy in the departure lounge at Ben Gurion Airport. In fact, when I arrived on Sunday 1st October, and peered down into the giant bowl of departures before the happiness of the ramp, I felt a glimmer of sadness.
Sadness that I knew that in just 2 weeks time, I would be back, down there, around the fountain, waiting to leave.
I waxed lyrical before about how we as Jews never say “Goodbye” and only L’hitraot (See you again). Every time I’m here, I cry, I weep, and I stare out the window with sadness as the plane lifts off the ground, knowing I have a homeland of my people I can come back to.
I’ve a history of extending or trying to extend my stay, prolonging the time I’m in my homeland for. One more hummus, one more schwarma, one more walk along the tayelet (promenade) one more stroll down Sderot Rothschild (one of the central streets of Tel Aviv).
This time is different. Not just because I am here 4 days earlier than planned. But because my heart isn’t just heavy. My heart ACHES. It hurts. It’s screaming.
The tears started in the car from just south of Haifa. But truly, the tears started in Tel Aviv, early on Saturday morning, where distant missile interceptions woke me up… As I was coming to terms with the news, the sirens sounded, warning us of an incoming missile, jarring me fully awake as I moved quickly to the shelter.
The loss is unprecedented. The largest number of Jews lost since the holocaust. We are sad, we are scared, but we will not give up.
Amid the loss, the sadness, and the chaos, we managed to make a wedding for a friend; we were greeted by over a hundred members of the town who had come to take the place of the guests who couldn’t come, and celebrated a moment of sheer joy under a makeshift chuppah of a tallit that survived the holocaust belonging to the bride’s grandfather.
Yet as joyous as the joy was, my phone didn’t stop. People checking I was ok, and people informing me, of the suffering of my friends and their families. A friend’s best friend missing (now found murdered) another friend missing 5 of his family. Quicker than the way we hastily created joy at the wedding, all sense of joy vanished from my body. I was, not okay. and there was nothing I could to do change it. While usually the always happy one in a group…. I was broken. Just like the rest of Am Yisrael, I was not okay…
When we say the world is small, it’s even smaller for Jews… 6 degrees of separation is usually only 2 or 3. Everyone Jewish, and I mean EVERYONE knows someone impacted by this. As days go by, the number of those folk impacted is going to grow, and Jews worldwide will face even more pain. It sickens me to see Hamas terrorists on TV saying they didn’t kill civilians and that they were “just resisting.” There are folk on the internet celebrating the deaths.
I’m on a plane to Cyprus, to get me out of Israel and then on a plane from Cyprus to London. London where “Free Palestine” has been daubed on rail bridges in Jewish Areas, where pro-hamas rallies have taken place, where I never fully have felt safe to proudly, openly and outwadly be a Jew.
On the way to the airport, as ever, I found myself placing my Magen David (Star of David) back inside my shirt. Hiding away my identity. Concealing my Jewishness.
For 5km on the highway, I found myself fighting in my own head, over the right thing to do, Jewish and proud, or Jewish but hidden. In every generation, there’s been someone that tries to kill us – At the Passover seder each year we read: V’hi She Amda l’avotenu: “And this is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and the l-rd saves us from their hands.” This is a statement that is as true today as it has ever been over the last 2,000 years of our existence. We hurt now, we are sad but we are not defeated and we are strong.
About 5km north of Netanya, having passed 2 checkpoints in the road a numerous IDF vehicles, I noticed something. The municipality had been out and placed Israel flags in each of the lampposts. A reminder that this state is still here, is proudly Jewish and is going to prevail.
The scenes at the airport are unusual. Families queueing to check in with as much luggage as they can carry, parents with kids, dogs, cats… people wearing multiple layers of clothes. It’s reminiscent of pre-holocaust escape stories you’ve read in history books, or heard as testimony from survivors….
…and yet downstairs, in arrivals, you can hear the sound of a large number of people, filling the arrivals hall, singing their hearts out to welcome home soldiers, reservist and normal citizens, arriving on one of the few flights to land here today.
While I was sure of waiting until my original flight on Sunday to leave, the false alarm yesterday that had us in the Mamad (safe room) for over an hour, and the lack of sleep and high level of anxiety means I know, that in order to best serve Am Yisrael, I need to preserve my self.
The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving. The terrorists have lost. Because I will fight with all my might to spread the message of the massacres, share the stories of those killed and to celebrate the heroes both in the IDF and civilians who survived.
The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving, because they’ve strengthened my already strong identity. I will continue to speak out against the slander, the misinformation and the antisemitism.
The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving, I am not allowed to help directly in the efforts here. I don’t have an Israeli Passport/ID card so I can’t give my tech/cyber skills. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help from home… and most importantly it doesn’t mean I can’t start the process to become a citizen.
Israel is going to need us over the coming days, weeks, months and years. I am so goddamned proud of this small slice of land, the size of the state of New Jersey, surrounded by hostile neighbours, and while Aliyah may not be what I want to do for now, I will without a doubt be looking properly at how I can become a dual citizen… because After all;
Ein Li Erez Aheret –
I have no other land
Even if my land is burning.
Just a word in Hebrew pierces my veins, my soul, in a weak body, in a broken heart.
This is my home.
I will not stay silent because my country changed her face
I will not give up reminding her
And sing in her ears she will open her eyes.”