We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and would like to share some thoughts from Israel and blessings from our own Rebecca Brindza. Rebecca attended preschool here at the UJCVP and took her first trip to Israel with our community supported teen tour. Rebecca graduated from York High School in 2011, took a subsequent gap year in Israel and decided to make Aliyah.

Hi Steve,

Just over a year ago I made a commitment to a nation, a people, a way of life, a mindset, a faith, a universal dream, and most importantly to myself. I fulfilled my ‘G-d-given’ right of return to the land of my ancestors, the birthplace of the Jewish State, the most fought over piece of real estate in the history of time, to Eretz Yisrael. In other words, I made the biggest decision of my life to date.

In Judaism, we make bruchas or blessings over almost anything and anyone. This is because our act of blessing an everyday commodity such as the food we eat, the homes we live in, and even the people we love, allow us to take the average and make it holy or blessed. As Jews, we believe that when something is blessed it elevates or rises up as it becomes closer to Ha’Shem. Therefore Aliyah which stems from the Hebrew verb l’aylot meaning to go up or raise, spiritually speaking, is a way of blessing yourself.

Coming from the Virginia Peninsula, a place of peace and security, some might think it’s almost humorous that I moved 5,000 miles away to a region of ‘conflict’ where daily life is harder than living in the States and consider it a blessing. However, at the end of the day I look at myself and see how far I have come and how much more I will grow as a person. I know that I wouldn’t be me or the version of me that I want to be if it wasn’t for this tiny little country and the courage and responsibility it takes for me to live here. Therefore I don’t classify myself as a religious Zionist, but rather a progressive Zionist. I above all want myself to succeed by way of making Israel succeed.

I am constantly asked what it’s like to live in the ‘current situation,’ if I feel safe and secure, and how is it really ‘over there’? On a daily basis living in Israel is no different than anywhere else in the world (despite the taxes) and I would be willing to bet that it is significantly safer than residing in a large metropolitan city like New York, Philadelphia, or Los Angles. Did you know that in the span of almost three years in Israel, I have seen only two car accidents. That’s saying something, since we Israelis aren’t known for our driving…

I won’t lie. The first time I heard sirens blare throughout Jerusalem warning civilians of an impending airstrike I cried and like a baby no doubt. Not because I feared for my life, but because I was nervous as hell. Do you know what a siren does to your internal dialogue? It makes for some of the worst traffic my subconscious has ever dealt with. The amount of things that cross your mind when you hear the warning sounds is excruciatingly overwhelming.

“Am walking/running fast enough? Oh, I hope I don’t trip down the stairs. I wonder how many rockets there were? Will there be enough room to sit? Was it close? I hope it didn’t hit anything- probably not Hamas isn’t known for its aim. Has it been 10 minutes? Should I call Mom and Dad now or later? Are they going to send me back to Virginia? I need to pee. Why don’t they put bathrooms in bomb shelters? Can I go back upstairs yet? Looks like it’s time to meet the neighbors! Maybe they know how long it’s been?”

Yet that night (despite the mental garble) I knew that like today and every other day, I had the entire IDF and about 14 Iron Domes watching over me, the country I call home, and the people I consider family. Sounds like a guardian angel if you ask me.

So our daily forecast may be hot and humid with a chance of rockets, but a little rain never hurt anybody. We have our coffee, read our paper, go to work, and carry on like everyone else. One rocket or 5,000 rockets will never break our stride. It might make us a little angry, frustrated, and occasionally inconvenienced but it will never defeat our will to live because that is what we, Israelis and Jews, were born to do. History has proved this time and time again, that if and when our existence is threatened, we don’t raise a white flag to surrender or disband into contrasting groups. No- we as Jews and as Israelis (not mutually exclusive), flock together in times of struggle only to grow stronger through coming years. We may be rough around the edges and rear our heads at whomever and whatever stands in the way of our existence, but our hearts contain more unconditional love and life than meets the eye. We stand up for ourselves, our beliefs, our faith, our nation, our family because there is nothing greater than the gift of life and that is something worth fighting for.

¬†Here at the UJCVP we’re proud that our community raised over $40,000 to support civialian needs during Operation Protective Edge. Funds from our Annual Campaign continue to support overseas needs in Israel and around the globe.