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Why We Stay In Israel  
 
Project One Soul - By Sherri Mandell
 


It feels crazy to live in Israel right now. A few people are leaving. I understand them. It's horrible to live with the violence, and the attendant stress and anxiety. We Israelis are so vulnerable: travelling in a car or bus, going to a cafe, even staying home. All have been woven with terror. Every time of day and night, we know we are targets.

One recent Friday night, we were awakened at 1 in the morning by the loudspeaker in our community. The announcement said: "There is a warning that there is a terrorist in Tekoa. Lock your windows and doors, sleep with gun, guard your children. Turn out all of the lights."

We quickly turned off the lights even though we are Sabbath observers. We locked the doors and windows. We put a chair in front of the front door. Then the phone rang. Our neighbor was calling to make sure that we had heard the warning.

The kids were scared, shaking. I told them that we would protect them, take care of them. That they should try to go to sleep.

The kids fell to sleep, all of them in our bed. I prayed and then slept fitfully, hoping that morning would soon be on its way.

Around 3:00 the loudspeaker came on again. The warning was over.

For now. But as I told my children, it's rare that terrorists warn you.

They certainly didn't warn my son, Koby, 13, before they stoned him and his friend Yosef to death, crushing their skulls so they were unrecognizable. Koby and Yosef were hiking near our home in Tekoa. The two boys wanted to know the canyon beyond our house like the backs of their hands.

They were killed for their love of the land. They were killed for being Jews.

My friend was at a movie in Jerusalem on Saturday night, the night of the massacre at the Moment Cafe when a terrorist killed 11 people. The manager stopped the movie and told the patrons what had happened and asked if they wanted the movie to continue. They didn't. They all went home.

Why do people continue to stay here even though we are being slaughtered by terrorists? Because many of us feel a deep sense of connection here, to our country, our heritage, and to each other.

The sense of connection manifests itself in surprising ways. Today I go to the makollet, the grocery store, and there is a man filling a cardboard box with goodies to send to his son in the army. The man picks out a bar of chocolate, plain milk chocolate. And the makollet lady, Rena, says: "Your son doesn't like that kind of chocolate. Noam likes crunchy chocolate."

Another story: My friend Ruth is at a kiosk buying a drink. A little girl says shyly to the proprietor: "What can I get for 2 shekls?" He says, "nothing." Then he hands her a shekl. "But now you have three. You can buy gum or a candy." Ruth fishes into her pocket. "Now you have four."

Here there is a feeling of family. Here in the face of pain and suffering, we don't feel alone. We feel that we are a net that is woven together and though it is full of holes, it is strong enough to lift us up.

If we make a hole in the net, the net is weakened. Of course it can be mended. But it will never be quite the same.

We don't want to make a hole in the net. We don't want to leave the place where our son is buried. We don't want to leave the only place in the world where time is measured by a Jewish calendar, where the celebrations center on the Jewish holidays, where the language is the language of the Bible. We don't want to leave the center of Jewish history. Now we are part of that long, hard history. We are part of the struggle of the Jewish people trying to live in their land.

My son died for being a Jew. I want to live as one.
11/14/2004 

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