Monday, March 30, 2015

Yom Aliyah and the Felafel Guy

Happy Aliyah Day!

Don't feel bad. I didn't know it existed until a few hours ago either.

Today, I am grateful for aliyah, and the credit belongs to the felafel guy I just bought dinner from. Here is what I know about him: There is no chummus at his felafel shop, and a pita only costs 7 shekel.

We have had exactly two interactions.

The first time we spoke, he asked if I put ketchup on my felafel because I am American. Nope, I replied. I just like ketchup. It's time for you to learn of techina, he said.

The second time was tonight. I had the longest day. Action packed since 7:15 in the morning. I stumbled up to the felafel store counter, half regretting my decision to forgo pizza - but the felafel was closer. And they had french fries. He served me my chummus-less felafel, no tomatoes please, with fries on the side. I took out my credit card to pay.

"Ah," he said. "We don't accept credit."

On a normal day, this would not be a tragedy. But today, of all days, I just wanted to eat. And I had no cash.

"It's okay," he says, and I think he'll tell me that he can wait while I run up the street to take cash out of an ATM. "You can pay me next time you come."

"I'm going to America," I tell him.

"But you are Israeli, right? So you are coming back."

"Of course."

"Okay," he says. "So what's the problem?"

I leave, felafel in hand, and feel the stress of today melt away.

I am Israeli. I am the person that he can rely on to pay him back. I am the other side of the deal. He must be trusting, and I must be trusted.

This is not the first time I have encountered the natural Israeli kindness, or their confidence in the goodness of others. I have had hundreds of monumental "Israeli" moments. But on this day, this Aliyah day, it meant so much more to me.

I walk home, and a bike rider zooms past me, a near miss. A cat with gleaming eyes is camped outside of my building, hoping to sneak in the door behind me. My backpack is heavy, and I am so, so tired.

There are ups and downs, good days and bad. But I wouldn't trade living here for anything.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

העם הנצח לא מפחד

I went to the right wing rally in Kikar Rabin last week. I was looking for affirmation that the right wing sector is still strong, is still alive. Every poll I've seen shows the left with more seats than any other party. Most Facebook groups that I've looked at are flooded with posts encouraging it's members to vote left. I needed a rejuvenation, a reminder that there are still people who share my values, who are willing to fight for this land.
I got everything I was hoping for.
The square was packed. I can't give you a credible number any more than our various news outlets can, but I can tell you that there was no room to move, no room to breathe. People were filling the streets around the square, a river of humanity flowing constantly towards the stage. They were there from every right wing party. Men and women, dati and secular, old and young - we all banded together.
I heard the singing before I saw the group. The sound of a at least a hundred voices singing "Ha'Aretz, Ha'Aretz Hazot" wafted over the crowd. I fought through the streams of people and found a circle of unity, one that was growing larger every minute. Members of every party, young and old, girls and boys all dancing and singing together. Am Yisrael Chai, Od Avinu Chai - starting slow and then gaining momentum, they were singing at the top of their lungs, singing for the world to hear. Arms around each other's shoulders, the Israeli flags waving high. Ha'am Hanetzach Lo Mifached - the Jewish nation is not afraid of the hard path ahead. Two older men, one with a Likud flag and one with Bayit Yehdi, linking arms and standing in the middle of the circle, taking it all in. The teenager sitting high on shoulders above the crowd, yelling IVDU! ET! HASHEM! B'SIMCHA! and the roaring response.
We were not there, in that moment, to support Bibi. We were not there to hear Bennett. We were not there to understand Eli Yishai. We were there as a nation, there for each other. Everyone standing in the crowd felt connected, felt as though the songs we were singing were sweeping us away on a cloud of Jewish strength and unity.
From where I was standing, it was impossible to hear the speeches. But it wasn’t about that. It wasn't about hearing the leaders, because we've all heard what they have to say already. It was about banding together with those that share our same ideals, our same love of the country. Standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people, chanting Bibi's name. Thousands who sang Yerushalayim Shel Zahav together with Naftali Bennett. It gave me hope.
It's no secret that I voted for Bayit Yehudi. I hope, I pray that the elections will turn out in our favor. For the past few weeks, I've been trying to come to terms with what could happen if the left wins. How will the country change? What will our security situation become? Standing in the middle of Tel Aviv with thousands of Jews, I finally felt confident in our future, no matter what it may be. I will not lose faith in our country. We are the Jewish nation. We have survived so much.
Ha'am Hanetzach Lo Mifached Mederech Arucha.