Forward Thinking

I'm Making Aliyah Days After Israelis' Kidnapping

By Dasee Berkowitz

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The three kidnapped Israelis / Twitter

The kidnapping of three Israeli teens from the Gush Etzion area is especially poignant for us now as it (and please God, their safe return) is the lead story in the weeks leading up to my family’s aliyah in 12 days.

My obsession over the past six months — since we announced to our congregation that we are moving to Israel — has been quotidian: shrinking our possessions to fit into a Jerusalem apartment, finding schools and camps for our three kids, transitioning the work that we have done in Sag Harbor to the new rabbinical team and deciding which of my children’s artistic creations from nursery and kindergarten should be framed.

The existential reasons for moving — “being a part of the most important Jewish project of the 21st century,” the fact that in Israel “Jewish holidays are just the holidays” and that my children will be fluent in Hebrew after months — are part of the greater narrative of our decision to make aliyah that we tell our congregants and ourselves. That Israel is a dangerous place to live and raise a family is the darker underside of the story, which we barely mention.

When I received an email from a friend in Jerusalem in the midst of correspondence about making Shabbat plans for when we first arrive, she told me that her brother knows one of the teens who was kidnapped on Thursday. My heart sank. I hadn’t been reading the papers — my convenient excuse being that with three children under six, I don’t have time. Truth is, I don’t make it a priority, because I am happier living in denial that I am going to be raising my children in a country that is in a constant state of war.

President Simon Peres told the families of the three teens who were kidnapped — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16 — that “we are one nation, we are one family and I want you to know that all of Israel is with you during these difficult times.” You see the truth in his words in the massive gathering at the Kotel to pray for their release, in the statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu that refer to them as “our boys,” and in the weight of my friend’s words: “Things are tense here now — bring some joy.”

After living in Israel post-college, I summed up the difference between living in Israel and the U.S. by saying that in the U.S. you live efficiently, but in Israel you really live. Friendships are stronger and feeling a part of a community runs deeper. When awareness of life and death is at peak levels, connections between people are, too.

But danger is real. While my three-year-old daughter reflected that she is a little scared about going to Israel, her trepidation was limited to being left to navigate her way through a new camp setting. Managing emotions around danger and fear will be new words to add to my parenting lexicon. Just as strong will be my impetus for caring, connection and reaching out to offer help.


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