Monday, May 20, 2024

Home alone?

 (Originally published in The Times of Israel)

My wife and I arrived back in Israel two weeks ago after an extended stay in the U.S.  Even with the overwhelming problems and challenges, it felt great—liberating—to be back. You immediately feel that here Jews are making our destiny, are in control of our life as a people, that we have agency.

The contrast to the current situation in the U.S. is striking. The contrast to where we had been staying, Oakland, California, where the Jew-hatred and the goal of destroying our nation are loudly and proudly asserted at city council and school board meetings, on signs of demonstrators, and in windows of residents and businesses, is particularly striking.

Beginning with the poignant posters and artistic displays at the airport of dog tags representing the hostages, you are overwhelmed immediately with the sadness everyone feels for the hostages and the apprehension about the future.

We arrived just 48 hours before Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, whose somber mood resonated even more deeply this year. On the afternoon of Erev Yom HaShoa, as restaurants and shops closed, as the radio played appropriate music and programming, you could feel the heaviness in the air. We then marked our people’s greatest tragedy while renewing our vow that we will never be defenseless again.

Just a week after Yom HaShoa came two particularly difficult days. First it was Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), never an easy one when Israelis remember the thousands of mostly young people who have died defending the nation, as well as the thousands of victims of terror.

This year, with the events of October 7th still raw, with hostages then in their 221st day of captivity, with the bodies of murdered hostages being recovered, and with soldiers being killed and wounded daily, was especially tough.

We then transitioned into Yom HaAtzamaut (Independence Day).  The atmosphere usually turns light and we rejoice in the anniversary of the re-creation of a free and independent Jewish nation.  Israelis play music, barbecue, watch a tremendous air force flyover, and dance.

This year was much more subdued.  We did have some friends over for the traditional barbecue, although many others did not engage in the usual activities.