Thursday, November 22, 2012

In the Midst Very Far Away

My name is Rachel Kodner, Tau-Iowa; I am a 2010 graduate. I came to Israel in August 2012 as an Israel Teaching Fellow, a program heavily funded by the government and through Masa grants. I live in Petach Tikva, which is about ten kilometers from Tel Aviv. I came to Israel because I wanted to move abroad, I always liked being at Jewish summer camp, and quite frankly, the program agreed to reimburse my flight ticket.

Israel is a small country. To travel from top to bottom by car or bus it takes about eight hours, and four hours across at the widest parts. When I first moved here and getting lost was becoming a daily ritual, I'd ask for directions. What happened next occurred many times over, in different Israeli cities and neighborhoods. When I asked for directions, the friendly local would tell me I was very far from my destination. They'd even looked scared for my well-being to make such a journey. They'd wish me good luck ("mazel tov!") with a fun wave or laugh, still with eyes full of pity. When I'd get to my destination, the trip was always about a 10-15 minute walk - 20 minutes tops. Not quite the epic journey the Israelis prepared me for. I've discovered Israeli perspective differs from mine, a Chicagoan.

When bombs go off (like the one in the Tel Aviv bus yesterday morning) ten kilometers away, the Israeli teachers I work with barely flinch. They call their daughters and sons who live in the area, read the news on their iPhones, but finish their coffee and return to the classroom. When missiles land twelve kilometers away (like in Rishon L'zion or Tel Aviv), my roommates get calls from their Israeli boyfriends, but the boyfriends carry on to work, class, life. To them, it is very far away. An epic distance away. To me, it's a bus exploding in Chicago's Loop while I'm just north of Wrigley Field.

About 20 minutes after the news of the bus explosion broke, a teacher not native to Israel asked me if I was scared. I said, "yes," and she told me the chaos that surrounds Israel was part of her life now, and she isn't worried about dying, nor should I. To change the subject, I asked her to tell me about her first couple years in Israel. It took her a minute, but after she launched into a monologue about the Lebanon War in 1980, she revealed how frightened she was. Bingo! We nodded at each other, and she didn't tell me how to think again.

I can't blame Israelis for going on with their everyday lives. The buses continue to run; stores are open; school is in session. My coworkers will continue to tell me things are fine  - that driving a car is more dangerous statistically than living in Israel  -  and that it's a part of life. But I'm scared. My roommate Grace just got off the phone with her parents and is beginning to pack. She's moving back to Texas indefinitely. I don't know what's going to happen, and I don't know if I'll come home just yet, but I know that every single acknowledgement of the situation via Facebook, Tweets, texts and calls makes me feel better. I hope to update next with good news, but we'll see. What's even good news? Before last week, good news meant a last-minute trip to Greece or Hebrew class getting out early. It's all about perspective.

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your perspective. Your DG sisters are sending hope.  

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