Sunday, September 14, 2014 Elul 19, 5774

A Lone Soldier's Eye View

July 15, 2014 By:
Rebecca Richman
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Rebecca Richman (left), a lone soldier serving in Israel's civil administration unit, rides a bus with older sister Sarah.
Summertime in Israel is tourist season.
 
Families and hundreds of groups of teenagers flock from all over the world to experience all that Israel has to offer.
 
When words like "rockets," "war," and "terror" started creeping into our headlines, I thought it spelled an early end to tourist season. I thought travelers would choose to stay in their own countries rather than venture to a place where people describe current events as "ha'matzav" — the situation.
 
But as I walk down the streets of Jerusalem, it's clear that "the situation" did little to deter people from visiting the Holy Land. On the contrary, the streets bustle with tourists and Israelis alike.
 
Up until I made aliyah two years ago, I lived in the quiet suburbs of Philadelphia. I imagine that if the red alert siren ever sounded in Philadelphia, I, along with everyone else, would huddle in my rocket-proof basement until the threat had passed.
 
Until recently, I couldn't comprehend why that wasn't the case in Israel, why Israelis didn't let the sense of impending danger stop them from living their lives as if nothing was going on. 
 
But I've come to understand that Israelis, and probably Jews in general, find solace in community. And in Israel, your community isn't limited to your neighborhood or your synagogue. There is something binding the entire country into a family. 
 
It's been two years since I made aliyah and over one-and-a-half since I drafted into the Israel Defense Forces. Nearly all of my friends are fellow soldiers, and as the situation in Israel has developed, I've noticed a new phenomenon emerge.
 
A few days ago, my phone alerted me to the newspaper headline, "Soldier Wounded By Mortar Shell." But that's not what I saw. In place of the word "soldier," I saw the names of all of my friends who have been called down South. That is what turns all of Israel into a community, what makes me prefer a restaurant to my own home when the siren sounds. Everyone in Israel knows this feeling.
 
Mothers and fathers look at the headlines and see not just soldiers, but sons heading to battle. It's brothers and sisters, roommates, boyfriends and girlfriends. And with over a thousand reservists being called up, it's husbands and fathers, too. 
 
This time, the soldier wounded by mortar shell was not a friend of mine, but he was someone's friend. Someone exactly like me saw the same headline, felt the same flash of worry, and then had his fears confirmed. And because the entire country can identify with him, the entire country can be his comforting community. 
 
Though I fully support Israel, I can't say I'm politically educated enough to actually have an opinion about how our leaders should address this conflict. But I can say that I will support anything that Israel does to ensure that every member of our community can come home and live in safety. 
 
Rebecca Richman immigrated to Israel two years ago from Merion Station. She is currently serving in the Israeli Defense Forces' civil administration unit as a "lone soldier."

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