The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

People over politics: My connection to Israel

Every time I open my phone, I feel suffocated with an overwhelming sense of fear. Another photo of another life taken. Another rocket. Another woman raped. Another Holocaust survivor held hostage. More children in cages and more babies killed. It feels like humanity has been stripped away from many in the Middle East. Right now, the horrific acts by Hamas have killed many innocent Israelis and led to the death of many Palestinian lives. These acts are despicable and no human should be terrorized because of the actions of their government. Here’s my story and this is what happens when we don’t choose people over politics.

As a Jewish person, every day in America is another day of fear, another day of rising antisemitism and another day of watching Jews being murdered in Israel from afar. I check in on my friends in Israel, my heart pounding as I await their response. I try to remember that the time difference is why they don’t answer right away, but my head always goes to the worst-case scenario. It’s hard to breathe thinking about how, in a single instant, people my age can be ripped from their homes without cause.

This past summer I had the privilege to go to Israel for the first time with a teen program. I had never felt emotionally connected to the land as I am not Israeli, nor did I know anyone there. The second I stepped off the plane after my 13-hour ride, I instantly felt safe. It was weird feeling so secure in a place with a history of geopolitical conflict and terrorism. For the first time in my life, I was part of the majority. In Israel, I was not scared that I would walk into a public restroom and see a swastika. I wasn’t scared to wear my Jewish star necklace. Even though I am not Israeli, I never felt more welcomed to be somewhere.

In Israel, the people are no strangers to the uncertainty that comes with the land. In specific places in Israel near the Gaza Strip, one has about 10 seconds after an alarm sounds to safely make it to a bomb shelter in time of an attack. 10 seconds. In the time it took you to read the last two sentences, you would have needed to find a bomb shelter, no matter the time of day.

While I was there, I was matched with an Israeli teenager who I stayed with for a week. I also met 20 other teens from her area, and each of my friends from my program were matched with an Israeli host. While the language barrier sometimes made it hard to connect, we all felt a sense of community knowing that we were all Jewish and doing the same teenage things whether it was in Israel or in New Jersey.

At first, I was out of my comfort zone, but the second I showed up at their door, I immediately felt like a part of their family. They took me in and treated me as if I was their own daughter. They cooked for me, traveled with me and did everything in their power to make my visit memorable. They told me I would always have a home in Israel and that I could come back anytime.

When I got the message that a missile fell on the building next door to them, I felt sick knowing they were in danger. I consider these people an extension of my family and when they told me specifics of the attack I went numb.

In an Instagram direct message, my friend from Israel wrote that this was “the scariest thing that ever happened to me,” and that the “alarm attack caught us while sleeping around 6:30 am, 2 hours of non-stop alarms.” Everyone there knows someone who has died, been held hostage, or is in pain.

For me, this conflict is not about Israel and Palestine. It’s about humanity. It’s about going through my day worrying if my host family has been taken from their homes. It’s about going on social media and hearing murder being celebrated and parents being called to hear the screams of their children as they are being abused. It pains my soul.

These actions are inexcusable. They are unfathomable. To excuse or defend these behaviors is pure cruelty. You don’t need to support Israel or its government or Palestine. Jews or non Jews, we are all human. We are all people. No one should have to worry about losing their family and loved ones.

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  • R

    Richard JaegerOct 20, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    Well said!