By Shira Kramer, Features Editor and Social Media Manager
My love for Israel has always empowered me. When I was little, I dreamed of getting in a huge airplane and traveling to the land of shoko basakit (chocolate milk in a bag) and hot weather unlike anything the east coast could bring.
My first time going to Israel was at age 10, when my mother got remarried to a Yemenite Israeli, Yossi, which prompted my first trip to the holy land. Even at that young age, I felt something special the second my feet touched Israeli soil. The air felt different. It was almost like I could breathe better.
During that trip, I was exposed to many diverse Jews and communities that you could not find anywhere else. At times, I was the only English speaker in the room. While my Jewish day school taught Hebrew language classes, I’m sure we can all agree that I was not equipped to handle 10 Yemenite aunts, shouting excitedly at me with their thick accents and fast paced sentences.
At age 12, my family went back to Israel. This trip was the first time I felt afraid. At school, we learned that sometimes bad things happened in Israel. No one ever really explained why. To me, it seemed so far in the distance that I often forgot the lessons we learned immediately after leaving the classroom.
However, during one hot summer day in Shuk HaCarmel (a busy marketplace in Tel Aviv), the realistic elements of those lessons knocked me down hard. Literally. As an independent 12-year-old, I walked up to a vendor selling sweatshirts while my mom stood at the other end of the row looking at vegetables. I had picked up an army green IDF sweatshirt, when all the sudden, boom. I was knocked into a table that fell to the ground, while a screaming man fell on top of me.
“Regel, regel,” he said. I knew enough Hebrew to know that he was talking about his legs. I looked up to see that a man had stabbed him, before he fell on top of me. I tried to run but I struggled. By that point, not only had my parents noticed what happened, but dozens of other people had rushed to the scene. There were no paramedics and no police. No one official came to check if we were okay or arrest the assaulter. My family grabbed me and we rushed away from the market. Two hours later, when we were hungry for lunch, we went back to Shuk HaCarmel like nothing had happened.
As I grew older and heard of more attacks on Israel, I became passionate about spreading the truth about these events to anyone who would listen. I became a StandWithUs intern, lobbied at Congress with AIPAC, and was the president of every Israel club that I came across. I also embraced my new Israeli family and took on that identity for myself.
All of this education and action was supposed to calm my nerves for my country. Bad things happened and I had total emunah (faith in Hashem) that everything would be okay. Israel would prevail. While I still feel that way, I have to admit that when I left Brookdale for class this morning, fear overtook me.
We shouldn’t have to have four security guards at our front doors and even more inside our campus buildings. I shouldn’t have to walk through the streets of Midtown constantly alert of rallies and antisemites. I shouldn’t have to hear conversations, where my peers discuss whether or not it’s safe to walk to class. I shouldn’t have to have that fear. But I’m glad I do. Fear empowers us. Since long before any of us were born, Jews have struggled to keep the land of Israel ours. Nations attacked us from all sides and we showed that we are not going anywhere.
Today, I am proud of whatever emotions regarding Israel come my way, because that means that we have something to fight for. For the sake of that 10-year-old girl with a dream to get to her homeland, I will never stop fighting.