Before I left for Israel, everyone sent (and continues) to send me well wishes and told me to be safe. It made sense, seeing as I would be living in a country where terrorism attacks are unfortunately common. But, my response was always that I felt safer, especially as a teacher, living in Israel, than I would living and teaching in a school in the US. It’s not that I don’t appreciate every single well wish and prayer I have received, I absolutely do, but it’s more that I want people to continue to be aware of the world that we all live in.
My scariest day in Israel to date was absolutely January 9th. Surprisingly, this was not the day that I traveled to Jerusalem, and there happened to a terror attack in the city. Rather, it was the day of the first round of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers around the US. As I was leaving Ulpan, my Hebrew lesson, that evening, I got an update to my phone from a news app, saying that there were bomb threats in 6 states. By the time I returned to my apartment, that number had grown to 8 states. My first thoughts went immediately to my mom. While none of the reports had said anything about Michigan being targeted, I was unsure how much more the list would grow. To make matters worse, I was unable to reach my mom, who works at the Jewish Federation and spends time for her job at the West Bloomfield JCC. I immediately called my dad, who also had not heard from my mom, and said he would also try to call her. After an agonizing 15 minutes of not being sure where my mom was, or if she was OK, I finally got a phone call from her, letting me know that she was completely fine, and Michigan had not been affected by the bomb threats. My tears flowed, and the sense of relief was overwhelming. The next morning I woke up to see the final tally of 9 states and 16 centers affected by these bomb threats .
Nine days later, I got a message from my mom. There was another wave of bomb threats to JCCs, and this time the JCC in West Bloomfield was called. She had messaged me to say that she was fine, and that she was not in the building when it happened. The West Bloomfield JCC was just one of 27 JCCs in 17 states affected by this second round of terrible threats. I am still so grateful that my mom was able to be the one who updated me before I saw it on the news. Two days ago, a third wave of these threats happened, targeting at least 17 more JCCs. And, to top it of, I woke up this morning to a status update from a friend stating that the Jewish day school in my area received a stand-alone threat. These disgusting people are targeting children solely because they are Jewish.
I have always been lucky to live in an area where I did not have to be scared to be who I was. All of my friends growing up knew I was Jewish. Throughout high school, I participated in NFTY, a Jewish youth group, and often shared stories from the Kallot, or weekend retreats. Even in college, I was able to be completely open about my religion, and enjoyed sharing some of my Jewish customs with some of my curious friends. Living in Israel has only increased my connection to Judaism. But, seeing all of these bomb threats going on in the U.S. truly makes me rethink about how open I once was about my being Jewish. I am still unsure where my life will take me, but if I end up living back in the United States, I will have to do some deep reflection to see how open I can be about my religion, and that terrifies me. I truly cannot imagine living in a place where I am scared to be authentically me. Too many Jewish people already lost their lives simply by being who they were, and I refuse to live in fear for how I live my life.
Finally, to all of my friends and family living back home in the United States, please know that I am with you. I continually try to find ways to fight the oppression happening in our country. Whether that is going to the Women’s Solidarity March in Tel Aviv on January 21st, or calling Senators and House Representatives to let them know my thoughts on political issues, I try to make sure my voice is still heard, even from half a world away. If there is anything more I can do to help, both generally and personally, I am just a phone call or message away. I truly love and miss you all. Stay safe in this crazy world of ours. ❤