Middle East Conflict, Politics, Religion, Work


I work from home. And since my younger children are in Gan on the kibbutz and my older son takes a bus to his school in Givat Ela (a 15 minute-drive away), I don’t have much reason to leave. In fact, I don’t really have much reason to shower. (See? Already I’m contributing to the water conservation effort in Israel.)

This makes for a very insular life. Which, for the moment, I enjoy.

Especially since this type of isolation means I can forget I live in a country in the middle of a war zone.

Did you ever see the Christopher Reeve film, Somewhere in Time? It’s a time traveling story in which Reeve’s character, Richard, falls in love with a woman (Jane Seymour) he sees in a vintage portrait. Richard figures out how to travel back in time to the turn of the century to meet her…where they fall in love. He needs to be mindful, though, because if he sees anything that reminds him of his own time, he will be hurled back there in an instant.

I, too, need to be mindful. All it takes is one email, one conversation with a friend, or one visit to msnbc.com to remind me that I didn’t move to a communal farm in New Hampshire, but to a kibbutz in Israel, a land whose fate is consistently in question.

The other day I was driving to Nazrat Ilit, the nearest “city” to Hannaton with my friend Yitzhak, who is also a new oleh. On the drive, he asked me if I was concerned about the situation in Egypt. “What’s going on in Egypt?” I asked tentatively. He looked at me as if I had three heads. “Do you know what’s going on in Tunisia?” he asked. I told him I thought I saw a picture about it on Facebook. He sighed.

When I got home later, my husband Avi was closely reading an email in his inbox. When he saw me looking over his shoulder trying to make out the Hebrew, he quickly closed it out. “What was that about?” I asked. “Oh, nothing we need to worry about right now,” he replied.

The problem with his response is that I already saw the photo included in the email which, it turns out, listed the dates the local municipality would be handing out complimentary gas masks to each family in the region, and the specific locations at which we could pick ours up.

“I see,” I said, noting that the soonest date to pick up our stash was mid-February. I took a deep breath and glanced over at the miklat* in our house, which for now is filled with boxes we have not yet emptied, as opposed to gas masks, extra water, or bags of dehydrated food.  I was better prepared for catastrophe in New Jersey, where I kept a big tupperware box filled with 2012 End of Days supplies in my basement.

Is it ignorant or naive of me to think I could move to Israel and not be forced to confront the politics of living here? I think the clear answer is, Yes.  And, yet, I’m doing a really good job of it so far.

Or so I easily lead myself to believe…

I think it’s only time until I will be forced to confront, or at least acknowledge, what it means to be an American Jew living in Israel. When all the careful indoctrination I received studying International Politics in college, interning at the Embassy of Israel, and working in Washington, D.C. think tanks rises to the surface.  

I am, in fact, very aware and informed of the history of the land I now I live in. It’s one thing, though, to read Amoz Oz or write a paper on “Why the West Bank Is An Important Strategic Asset to Israel” (which I did in 1993). It’s quite another to pay taxes here, prepare my children for a bomb drill, or walk beneath fighter planes doing exercises in the sky.

When there is inevitably another media blitz about an Israeli military choice or when Israel is once again front and center in the international news, where will I be? Lobbying in support of my country? Or quietly insisting that the latest news doesn’t concern me?

Only time will tell.

Like many transformations I’m experiencing as a new immigrant here, my political leanings are still…TBD.


Miklat = Bomb shelter (which by law every new Israeli home built has to have. Most people use these as closets, storage rooms, or offices.)

4 thoughts on “Bubble”

  1. Jen, very well written and honest. I, too, heard the jets of the IAF drilling in the sky yesterday. Yep, this ain’t New Jersey or California. But, then again, open the web site of any US paper and you are confronted with headlines screaming bloody murder, literally.

    I actually have a better use for the gas masks we’ll be receiving: wearing them when we visit Anat’s family in Tel Aviv: all smoke like chimneys!


  2. This brings up so many memories. I was at Hebrew U my Junior year of college 1990-1991. I spent the first couple of months in a blissful bubble of being back in my homeland… Then I started hearing reports from friends back in the US that there was reason to be concerned… I still went hiking, camping, hitchhiking, jaunts to Dahab and sketchy plans and travel to Egypt. It wasn’t until Hebrew U issued an announcement to get my gas mask and that our program would be closing for 2nd semester that I pulled my head out of the desert sand and acknowledge that my “bubble” was starting to leak. When the first siren went off, my bubble burst. Though I ended up going home to the U.S. for a few weeks and returned once Hebrew U reopened, Israel was never really the same for me again. It was a defining time in my life when I made the decision that I was not going to make aliyah or raise my future kids there (btw – my dad, my aunts and uncles and cousins and many many close friends live there). That was 20 years ago and since then I have been back to Israel almost every other year leading teen trips and Birthright and have sent off many students and friends making aliya with hugs and tears but also relief that it is not me. I will never say that it is an impossibility that my family will make aliya but just as my religious and spiritual practices are ever evolving and in a state of “Od Lo” (not yet), so too is this particular piece of my journey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s