This posting was contributed by Pamela Ingram of St. Paul, MN, who is on her way to Israel for a Solidarity Mission to southern Israel with other alumni and members of the National Young Leadership Cabinet and members of NYL's Ben-Gurion Society (read more about BGS). This posting came from her own blog about her travels.I have never blogged before, we'll see if this turns out to be a great idea or not. I am not sure why I am doing this. Am I doing it for me, as I regret that I didn't better document my last trip to Israel? Am I doing it for the people I care about, who are worried about this trip and my safety? Am I doing it for a greater reason, in hopes that someone reading this who doesn't "get it" about the situation in the Middle East will read my words and realize that behind the headlines and military attacks there are faces... faces who yearn for nothing more than the safety and calm that we take for granted in the United States. Who knows, but like so many other journeys in my life I take without understanding why, so too goes this blog.
I may not know why I am writing this blog, but I do know why I am heading to Israel again. I feel that call, that urge to be there. To stand up for what I believe in, to stand with the people I believe in, in a country who I believe in.
It's hard to explain, if you ask most around me why I am going, it would be some response about being Jewish. And yes that is part of it, but there is more. Israel, right wrong or otherwise, to me speaks about all that is possible in this world, both the good and the bad.
On the good, Israel is about dreams, determination, love and passion.
I have never been accused on doing anything halfway. Anyone who has known me for more than 10 minutes, knows that once I set my mind to something I cling to it til I am done. For this reason a very dear friend gave me the hebrew name Lehava Rut....literally Lehava is flame, but the "slang" meaning of this name is "Stubborn Friend". Some may say my stubbornness is a bad thing, but many also know it is how I have survived and thrived through good and bad. I see Israel as the epitome of that quality.
Israel is the homeland of people who have seen the worst the world can offer, and yet through it all have persevered, survived and thrived. The dream of Israel, the state of Israel and the continued defending of Israel require holding fast to ideals and views that the world many times tried to extinguish, yet she has survived and thrived. There is no greater legacy than that. To have stood fast to our dreams against all odds.
I think holding fast to my own beliefs and ideals is part of what is drawing me back to Israel at this moment in my life. I have had many chances to go in the last few years, but this time the call was too strong to pass up. I need to be reminded that dreams do come true, that holding tight to what you believe in does matter and that fighting the good fight is worth it in the end. I need to reconnect with that part of myself.
The bad, how do you even start to explain the bad in humanity that Israel represents. From it beginnings with a people nearly extinguished who fought to exist and to find a home to the current hate and murder and pain in the middle east. No matter what side of the political divide you come down on, the pain is excruciating. I do not feel sorry for the terrorists or the soldiers on either side of the conflict, but my heart aches for the innocent on both sides.
People who spend every day praying that their children will come home safe, their homes will be standing in the morning and that they will live to see a new year. No one should have to live like that. And the sad part is no one has to. If the fanatics on both sides of the border could just stop and see what they are doing for a minute it could all end, but that is but a dream today.
I can't change the bad, but I also can't bury my head in the sand and pretend it isn't there. I feel drawn to be there, to for a few days stand with others from the US and say "we are here, we know you are hurting, let us help". I need to reconnect with this part of myself also. I remember the young girls I met when I was last on a mission in 2002, we taught them the words blue, red, yellow in English, we colored with them, we sang. Are they still alive? What are their lives like now? I remember the soldiers we met, did they live to see their families again? I remember the merchant in S'fat, his wife in tears because our mere cents spent on their pottery allowed them to celebrate a birthday with a dinner. I remember the bombing victims telling us "please tell the world we are here, we think they have forgotten us". I need to remind myself I haven't forgotten them.
I am not naive, I know this trip is a risk. That this is a volatile part of the world I am headed to, that I would be much safer on a beach in Hawaii, or a hotel overlooking the Eiffel tower. But every day I ask others to live in harm's way in Israel so that I as a Jew have a homeland to turn to. How can I not go for a few days and take that risk. A beach or Paris would not help me find those parts of me I feel so lost from right now. They live in Israel, and I must go to find them....
Give to UJC's Israel Solidarity Drive Now.