I'm sitting here about to go into my 2nd shabbat since my return and many have asked me how it feels to be back in the US. Honestly, my body might physically be in the US but my mind and soul are very much still in Israel.
For the last 11 days Israel has been engaged in Operation Protective Edge, a military operation they began due to an escalation in rocket fire coming from Hamas controlled Gaza. In those 11 days over 1,500 rockets have rained down on Israel's citizens and the IDF has called up over 70,000 reserve troops. Yesterday Israel officially launched a ground invasion into Gaza to destroy Hamas' tunnel systems being used to transport weapons.
My stomach churns with nervous feelings and uneasiness for the safety of my friends (really my Israeli family) and the IDF soldiers now deep in battle. My dad calls it "survivor's guilt"—Why is it that I am able to fly away to the US and escape all of the terrors of this war? Well, I've decided that this term in inaccurate for two reasons.
First, "survivor's guilt" implies that the Israelis are not going to survive, but I know they will. I'm reading the book "Like Dreamers", by Yossi Klein Halevi, about the paratroopers of the 1967 (6 day) war. As was the case in many of Israel's wars, the soldiers went in hoping to merely survive, but instead they conquered. This war, similar to many others in Israel's history, should serve has harbingers of hope. We are strong and even when it looks like we maybe should lose hope, we don't and we survive. It is impossible for me to feel any kind of "survivor's guilt" — all Israelis are survivors, not just me.
Secondly, this concept of "survivor's guilt" also implies that I've escaped. Yes, I am no longer facing the threat of being hit by a rocket. Code red sirens no longer serve as my alarm clock (although my Red Alert app sure goes off a lot). Now I'm confronted with a different type of threat—that of the western media's hypercritical tendencies towards Israel. I read articles comparing Gazan and Israeli death tolls (over 100-1), failing to report the fact that the Israeli government does everything in it's power to keep it's citizen's safe (Iron Dome Defense Missile System that is 90% effective, bomb shelters and safe rooms in every structure) while Hamas publicly encourages it's citizens to stay in harms way and ignore IDF warnings (leaflets dropped, phone calls, text messages, warning shots fired, and door to door notification) to evacuate areas hours before. I see CNN news corespondents calling residents of southern Israel "scum" for sitting and watching bombs go off across the border (not an activity I endorse, but nonetheless) but neglecting to say a word about Hamas' strategy of hiding it's weapons caches and terror operatives in schools, mosques, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, literally using it's citizens as human shields. I watch as the UN, France, and even President Obama tell Israel it has the right to defend itself, but to do more to prevent civilian deaths. What more do you propose Israel does?!
So no, I do not have "survivor's guilt". Instead I feel the pain of battle all the way from America. I do what I can from here by posting the truth about the situation on social media and praying for my fellow Israelis and IDF soldiers, but it is difficult to be so far away from someplace that feels so much a part of you. I suppose it will take time to adjust, but right now all I want is to be back as soon as possible, despite this less than favorable situation.
If you have questions about Israel's current situation, or Israel in general, please feel free to ask me. I'm always open to discussion; in fact, I encourage it! And please, keep Israel in your thoughts and prayers.