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A View from Jerusalem—August 2017

… no further than our own backyards

Steamy hot August is one of Israel’s well-known features. One that attracts tourists from all over the world, escaping chillier and rainier summers to enjoy our wonderful beaches and sunny skies.

But Israelis take for granted what others value, and during the month of August flee Israel’s high temperatures to cool off in Europe and North America.

The arrival and departure halls of Ben-Gurion Airport have been packed all summer with record number of Israelis traveling overseas. I was one of these many Israelis on my way to lovely Scotland.

Scotland welcomed us with everything Israel is lacking in the summer—waterfalls, cool air, evergreen forests, endless lakes (with not even one monster!), and wonderful whiskey.

A holiday in Scotland is every Israeli’s dream, the complete opposite to what we are used to. And we certainly enjoyed our holiday with all its offerings, one of which was perspective. An escape allows an opportunity to reflect and value what we normally take for granted. From a distance, I missed our blue skies, ever smiling sunshine, light friendly atmosphere and millennia of history—our history. Layers of stories, not all told yet, many waiting to be exposed, to share hidden secrets, our secrets, our stories.

A few days ago, I joined one of our JCC Maccabi Israel® teen groups visiting Israel this summer and traveled down south with them. We visited Tzameret, an Israeli artist living on the border of Gaza, in an Israeli village literarily touching that dividing line.

Tzameret shared with our teens her vision to use art as a bridging force, transforming the gray depressing border into a colorful, full-of-hope wall of dreams for peace.

Tzameret hosted us at her home, where she raises her four children. Their daily routine for their entire lives has coexisted alongside constant threats from rockets shot from Gaza for the past 17 years.

Our teens listened very carefully and tried to imagine life under daily threat, an existence that is challenged by a vicious, enemy just one mile away.

When asked, Tzameret’s daughter, Yam, replied that although she traveled worldwide, she would never leave her village or Israel. Her love and appreciation for the home she has was so evident, so inspiring.

Unfortunately, both Europe and North America had their bloody share of violence, of cruelty this summer. Barcelonans wept for the devastating casualties, people murdered viciously at the city’s most known site. This will not prevent anyone who lives there from continuing to call Spain home with pride and love.   And the death at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was equally stunning to Americans, who are still proudly American, nonetheless.

Over 1.5 million Israelis will be vacationing overseas this summer, all 1.5 of them will return to Israel with great memories and souvenirs, but most of all, with a greater appreciation for Israel, for home.

So, with all of Scotland’s beauty, it’s just a holiday destination for me, a nice break. A foreign beauty. I rather enjoy Israel’s beauty, alongside its challenges, since they are all ours. Together we worked hard to deserve this beauty, and together we will work harder to overcome its challenges.

Shabbat shalom,

Leah Garber, Vice President | Director, JCC Israel Center

 

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