The Pain and Joy of Life in Israel

[This essay, mostly by the ADDeRebbetzin, was written for our Nefesh B’Nefesh application. They recently contacted us asking if they can use it for an anthology of what they deem to be the best essays they’ve received.]

We lived in the Gush during the craziest time of the Intifada. While expecting our first child, we drove on roads that would often be closed…sometimes halfway through the trip. We knew ahead of time that our daughter would require extensive surgery after birth, and though we had the option of going back to America we decided to stay in Israel and use the best of Israeli medicine. During our many hospital stays over the next couple of years we met incredible people and had some eye-opening experiences. We nicknamed the NICU the UN because of the different types of people there; we were friends with an Arab couple from Ramallah, a Chareidi couple from Beitar, and a couple from Pisgat Ze'ev where the wife was Chiloni and the husband was Dati. During that politically sensitive time, we bonded over our children.
One of the methods of helping preemies breathe is known as Kangaroo care. You take the baby and place it on your chest, skin to skin, to encourage rhythmic breathing. The father from Ramallah refused this repeatedly. The nurses made fun of him, "You don't want us to see your hairy chest!" Finally he broke down and said, with tears, "I carry my stress in my chest; I don't want my twins to feel the stress of the world." He confessed one day that one of his greatest fears was that he would finally get to take his twins home and be shot at by Israelis on the way. I confessed the same fear, but that the shots would come from Arabs.
During another hospital stay over Pesach there were many bombs around the country, and we met some of the casualties first hand. One night in the playroom we experienced something that I will never forget. The TV was showing the aftereffects of the Seder night pigua in Netanya. There were many parents watching, including some Arab families who smiled and cheered at the devastating scenes. I though to myself then, and still think now, that any country whose hospitals treat its own citizens right next to people who cheer for its destruction is a light unto the nations.
Israel—a country so stressful to live in, with people of iron will. A country where the people love and hate each other but won't hesitate to tell each other how to raise children. A country I love so much that it scares me sometimes. A place where every savta feels that your child is hers. A place that is not perfect, but is a dream. A place where everyone's dream can be a reality. A crazy place that we call home. A place where we can raise our children with values that we can be proud of, so that they can be part of a strong-willed people that can accomplish anything, and do.
These are only some of the reasons why our kids walk around with backpacks, and if you ask them where they are going, they reply, "Israel." These are only some of the reasons I am crying while writing this essay. We are realistic. We know it's not going to be easy, but we love this place, even though it's not perfect, because it is home, ours and everyone's.

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