This year, Israel celebrates its 70th year of independence, where everyone who is somewhat touched by Israel’s culture, history, or religiosity can come together and share their own personal reflections and experiences with Israel.
My own experience of Israel, started in a small town called Ramat Sharet, in Jeruselam, where I was born and raised for 5 years, along with my sister. When I turned 5, Jerusalem resembled a battlefield, where Israeli citizens feared for their lives, on what I later found out was referred to as the period of the second Intefada, or the second Palestinian uprising.
This was a period of chaos, and I have distinct memories of having to hide in bomb shelters in primary school, because of fear of mass bombing attacks. My family came to the conclusion that we had to move out of Israel.
A lot of my family were also killed during their service to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), and therefore to me, Israel is also a place where my emotions are heightened. This provides me with a constant reminder to step back from the chaos of everyday life, and to reflect on how far Israel has come; to become the strong, multicultural country that it is today.
After moving from Israel, I grew up in the US from the age of 5 to 12, and then at the age of 12, my family decided to move to my Mothers homeland, the U.K. As an Israeli, living in the diaspora, my attachment to Israel was strongly ingrained into my identity, but it was so woven in that I went about my normal life without deeply thinking or engaging with this identity on a deeper level.
It was my experience of working with UJS for the past year, where I have begun to explore the true identity I am proud of.
Sure, I loved blaring out a bit of Dudu Aharon, or Eyal Golan on full volume, and yeah, my grandmothers Classic Shakshuka would turn any sour day into a day of pure joy; But my appreciation of food and music transcended into something deeper. It developed into an identity I realised had so many layers that I previously ignored: Politics, religion, deeper culture, and exploring the narratives of the ‘other’.
Through my experience of working as a Jewish society officer at UJS, including going on 2 UJS Israel trips, as well as generally growing in maturity, I saw a beauty to Israel that I hadn’t seen before, or that I previously overlooked. I began to stop seeing Israel as Daniel Rafaeli’s birthplace, and understood that Israel is the birthplace of culture, diversity, and assorted narratives, to millions of people, from diverse backgrounds. I now find it fascinating that people from different religions and cultures all have an intrinsic connection to the land I call home, the home to a breeding pot of cross comunal and cross cultural living.
And yes, whilst Israel is far from perfect, what country on earth is? But this is the country I call home, its the country I will always stand up for, and will proudly admit Israel's influence on my early upbringing, shaping my personality, and encouraging a more desirable and tolerant future.