After two amazing years in Israel, Alli and I have returned with our wonderful baby girl to the US. We left Israel last Sunday, July 6 amidst an increasingly volatile situation. For those who are unaware of what has been happening over the last few months, here is a brief sketch. As the latest round of talks arranged by John Kerry broke down, there has been a slow increase in the number of rockets sent from Gaza into Israel. For a while it was “only” a few per week, especially after Hamas (the terrorist organization running Gaza) formed a “unity government” with the Palestinian Authority. Then after three (Jewish) Israeli boys (aged 16, 16, and 19) were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists, the rocket attacks increased. Unfortunately, tragically, shamefully it now appears that some number of Jewish Israelis carried out a heinous and disgusting retaliatory attack against a 15 year old Arab Israeli boy, kidnapping and brutally murdering him the day after the funeral for the three Jewish boys who were kidnapped and murdered. The response from the Jewish Israeli public has been one of sorrow and empathy for the family of the Arab Israeli boy’s family, shame and a resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice. (The investigation is on-going, but the police has several suspects in custody and three confessions.) There have also been demands made by many people to increase and improve anti-racism education in the country. Despite all of this, riots by Arab Israelis increased in frequency and intensity in the days leading up to the eventual arrest of the suspects for this terrible crime and peaked after it was confirmed that the Arab boy was murdered as a response to the murder of the three Jewish boys. Since then the number and size of the rockets sent at Israel grew to its current state which saw 80 rockets shot at Israel during a one hour period a couple nights ago. I don’t have the exact statistics for last night’s barrage, but they are shooting larger rockets with longer ranges now towards Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and even Haifa (though actually hitting Haifa still seems to be out of range for now). These are just a few of the metropolitan areas that Hamas is trying to hit. As in the past, the Israeli response has been to try to target and eliminate rocket launchers, destroy tunnels built for smuggling or terrorist activities (or both), hit ammunition caches and now they are starting to hit the home of Hamas commanders. In order to try to eliminate civilian casualties, Israel sends leaflets and text messages to the people in Gaza in the vicinity of where they are going to strike in advance so that the civilians have a chance to evacuate first. In order to keep the riots under control, Israel has limited protests to gatherings of no more than 300 people.
This is the situation that we left. We should be celebrating our good fortune to be out of harms way, safe and sound in the US, right? Wrong. Although we certainly appreciate not having to constantly be on alert and aware of security updates, warning sirens and heading for shelter, we feel like in times of need, our place is beside our neighbors, friends, family and really all of Israel. We lived through one of these escalations before (an all too short 20 months ago), so we know what’s it’s like – though this time is worse than the last time by our judgement. To our family and friends – our hearts ache for you. To all of Israel – our hearts ache for you. Though we may be thousands of miles away, know that we are with you with all of our hearts, minds and souls.
When we started this Fulbright adventure, we had many dreams and aspirations for these 22 months. These included professional success, personal growth and having a baby. I’m happy to say that God has fulfilled every one one of these hopes and prayers (except becoming almost fluent in Hebrew – though that was a long shot from the beginning due to the time constraints of work). The number one goal for us during this adventure, however, was to become connected to Israel and to the Israeli people. I am happy to say that this has been an astounding success. We feel as though we have forever become intertwined with Israel, its people and its destiny, wherever that may lead. The official first part of our Fulbright adventure is over. Now the unofficial second part of using our experience to draw Israel and the US closer together begins.
Thank you Fulbright program and the United States-Israel Education Foundation for having given us this opportunity.
PS – I think Alli has a couple more posts planned before she’s through.