From the day I moved in to my apartment on Bar Kochva street, my doors have been open to family and friends. I’ve hosted Birthrighters, old timers, activists, and business travelers. In exchange for someone else’s clutter and hair in the sink, I get to relive all the thrills and frustrations, inspiration and confusion that Israel often infuses.
Hosting my family was certainly no exception. I spent this month strolling around the country with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. It was my brother-in-law’s first visit to Israel, and while digesting his initial impressions, he realized for himself the 63 year old truth about Israel’s defective PR: “Israel’s real personality is just not conveyed to the world,” he blurted one evening.
What’s Israel’s “personality” like, anyways? On a regular day, I would say stubborn, proud, informal, loud, defensive, and no-bullshit (almost sounds like I’m describing myself!!).
It’s no secret, I relish in my bubble Tel Avivian life. I am the last person to paint a bleak image of Israel when I live minutes away from the beach and in the heart of the city. But in reality, how many days are actually “regular” around here, where out of a population of 6.5 million people, 170,000 are active soldiers, with 500,000 reservists that can be called up in a moment’s time. About 500,000 Israelis live under Gaza’s rocket range in the South (Ashkelon and Ashdod) and another 100,000 in Hizballah’s rocket range in the North (Karmiel, Nahariya, and Kiriyat Shmona). Cafes, schools, malls, and pubs remain open targets ALL over the country.
On a “regular” day, thousands of parents aren’t sleeping until their children’s army service is completed. On a “regular” day, a mother has 30 seconds to grab her children and run to a shelter when the red siren goes off. On a “regular” day, we read headlines on how our neighbors are bent on Israel’s destruction.
Last Tuesday was a day like no other. Gilad Shalit came home. And when his arrival was broadcasted, so was Israel’s true personality: relentless sacrifices for human life…keeping its promise to parents that their children too won’t be left behind. Israel showed that it embodies more love for its children than hatred for its enemies. This is Her purest characteristic that’s sorely overlooked in the world.
Israel is not a philosophy, it cannot be understood through theory or sound bites. You have to immerse yourself on the ground because somehow our narrative – our true personality – gets lost in translation. And when you do, call me…my doors will always be open.