As I notice the aches of the war surfacing in my body, I try to tune out the constant booms that terrify the soundtrack of my day. There are no words that can fully explain the existence taking place here. Every song on the radio is interrupted by announcements of rocket attack warnings in numerous cities. Every move outside is companioned by the question of 'where will I run when I hear the siren?' Every smile escaping with a joke lifts up the energy, enabling our continuance. We wear the same exhausted glance in our eyes. And when that 30 second siren rings, my heart blasts out of my chest as I run with the residents of Aleh Negev to the bomb shelter.
I know exactly what to do. I'm expecting it. I'm prepared. I know where the bomb shelters are and I know how to protect myself and my loved ones. The adrenaline filled panic of rushing so many people in wheelchairs into the centrally located safe room always catches me feeling overly motherly. Hearing the boom of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket on it's mission to kill everyone in it's path, I finally allow a breath to enter my shaking body. We got everyone in. We survived. Now it's time to carry on with the day. Let's sing a song, do a little dance, distract ourselves from the miracle that just took place.
And that's how it's been for a month and a half now at Aleh Negev, the rehabilitation village for children and adults with very severe disabilities located 18 miles from the Gaza border. All of us doing National Service here have moved into the village in order to jump up in the middle night as the sirens sound; to extend our normal working hours to just be here, to support the community that brings us so much fulfillment. The punishment for existing is an exhausting yoke to bear. The only alleviation is found in the pride of being part of the experience. I am proud to support Israel not only with thoughts and prayers or a status on Facebook, but to literally be here in the land of my ancestors and to give my heart and all my energy to helping the diversity of the people who inhabit it. I am proud of the unity found in the streets, in the care packages to the soldiers, in the volunteering for the wounded.
Furthermore, I am proud that even in a war of self defense, we are still anti war as an entity of destruction. No one enjoys the pain drifting in the wind, catching my nose by surprise for the sensations of war are foreign to this San Diegan. Contrasting the familiar trees and climate that makes me feel at home in this coastal desert, I dare to live in a location that boarders neighbors much more unfriendly than San Diego. I chose to follow my dream and move independently to Israel because I wanted to actualize my link in the chain of my nation. Even when the link gets rusty in some sections or the tension pulls too tight, the challenges help in enduring one's identity. It's the zoomed out version of the picture that brings me comfort. It's the future links that are depending on me. It's the authenticity that I want to practice, guiding me to define myself by my actions.
Swimming upstream in the tide of anti-Israel events in America and Europe, I find myself feeling more safe where I sit here in the Middle East. The threats and hate pouring out against Jews via the Internet and protests, through the disproportional critic of the Israeli Defense Forces while thousands are murdered in Syria and Iraq without a thought of reducing causalities.
I wrap myself in a blanket, staring out at the stars, totally and completely homesick. I could not miss my family more, but so thankful to have my sister Ilana in Israel with me. I miss the glorious San Diego summers and simmer with jealously at the photo updates from my family. I am forever connected to San Diego, waiting to come back to my birthplace to visit. Nevertheless, snuggling into my new home, I whisper to the skies words of gratitude that I am in the place that I belong.