Birthright Israel
One thousand Taglit-Birthright Israel participants from the United States gathered on December 23, 2013 in Tel Aviv’s Beit Hahayal to salute entrepreneurship in the Jewish world. Photo by Yael Shachar
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Israel’s true beauty

In response to ‘Who would really move to Israel now?’ July 7

After two years living in New York, Vered Kellner seems certain that the quiet of America is better than the meaningful “chains of steel” of life in Israel that, supposedly, brainwash and militarize our children. Vered has misread the situation, failing to recognize the true beauty of Israeli society.

When I made aliyah seven years ago fresh out of high school, I – like Vered – saw a simple comparison: Israel was the Jewish homeland, an exciting, conflict-saturated adventure, versus the quiet, routine life I chose to leave behind in the United States. But this view is simplistic. The lull of America is but a plastic veneer for a vapid life. The true beauty of life in Israel is in its realness, in its truth.

When Israelis ask me why I left the “good life” for the chaos of Israel, I respond without missing a beat: Only in Israel did I discover the meaning of true friendship, of true love, of true giving and – yes – of true sacrifice.

Israel is beautiful during a grueling march in the army, when I realize that a true friend is not the guy who smiles politely at me, but the one who criticizes me to my face while pulling me through the mud.

Israel is beautiful when I see the throngs of youth trekking through the countryside, fully aware that life is not meant to be experienced solely through a plasma screen.

Israel is beautiful when I compare the lives of my “unchained” American peers — whose cookie-cutter life stories seem mass-produced — to my Israeli friends, each with his or her unique travels, studies and experiences.

It is Vered, not Israelis, who chooses to view the Israeli “cauldron” through the lens of extremism and conflict. She remains oblivious to the fact that the choice to live in Israel is much more than simply choosing an escapade. It is the choice to genuinely live.

As to her claim about “brainwashed” militarism, my experiences as a student at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva in no way resemble the collectivist, Spartan society she simplistically deplores. I never cease to be amazed by Israeli students, who can be individualistic, capitalist-at-heart entrepreneurs, yet at the sound of the air-raid siren embrace each other in shelters.

It is those students who, just this week, after discovering anti-Arab graffiti on a dormitory wall, came together — even under threat of Hamas rockets from Gaza — to denounce this ugly extremism. Young Israelis – daring, loud, driven, unique and caring. Israel in all her true beauty.

Dror Markus
Member of the Israel Student Authority at the Immigrant Absorption Ministry

Thanks to Grossman and Kashua

In response to ‘On hope and despair in the Middle East,’ July 8 and ‘Why Sayed Kashua is leaving Jerusalem and never coming back,’ July 4.

David Grossman’s optimism is infinite. It exists within him separate from the reality in which he lives. He has faced the worst and understood that we do have a choice, and that the choice between despair and its opposite is a strength and belief that nurtures life. Otherwise, we as citizens die inside and become robots reacting to every political wind presented by the government and the media in particular.

Sitting and watching these altneu events on the screen, we are robbed of our energy, our life force, our ability to move and move forward.

Sayed Kashua, I have always looked at your column first before reading the news on Fridays. I have felt fortified that there was someone like you with the courage, humor and strength to do what you have done. I understand that for you enough is enough. There is only one life to live.

Nevertheless, I am very sad. There always will be an emptiness that I doubt can be filled. No longer will I have that support as I brace myself to read the weekend’s news.

I thank you for being who you are and sharing your life, both as reality and as imagination, so liberally with your readers.

These two men possess, in very different forms, assets that inspire the ordinary person who is struggling to live beyond a survival mode in this troubled land.

Shirley Faktor Rozov
Jerusalem