In two weeks, we’re taking our four kids to Israel for a year — that is, unless El Al decides to stop flying into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
Amidst the current conflagration in the Holy Land, friends and family have (cautiously, nervously) asked us if we still intend to go forward with our move. Our answer has been an anxious, fearful, gut-wrenching, but still resounding and joyful “YES!”
Our saga began this spring when we, parents and children, decided to spend the coming year in the Holy Land, where Michael would develop new business for his law firm among Israeli technology companies (while working remotely for his American clients), where Debra would study Hebrew and Jewish texts, and where our family as a whole would enjoy a year of religious, cultural, and linguistic exploration.
We would enroll our children in Israeli schools, where they would study every subject from math to Bible to history in Hebrew while also studying the Hebrew language intensively on the side, in addition to the usual suite of athletic and artistic extracurricular activities.
We would spend quality time with our many relatives and friends living throughout the country, and we hoped to travel to its four corners, from spelunking in the caves of Rosh HaNikra on the northern coast, to skiing the slopes of Mount Hermon on the Syrian border, to snorkeling among the reefs off Eilat in the south.
But, for a proudly Zionist, Orthodox Jewish family like ours, spending a year in Israel would always amount to far more than the sum of its parts, an all-encompassing religious, historical, and cultural experience that never relents. Michael and Debra were both privileged to spend extended periods living in the Jewish state as young adults, reveling in the cycle of holidays and enduring the mundane details of quotidian life, and we desperately wanted our children to share that experience.
And then thousands of rockets began raining down indiscriminately on civilian population centers in Israel — including the Tel Aviv suburb we’re moving to — ultimately prompting a State Department travel advisory and a temporary FAA ban on flights into Ben Gurion.
Suddenly, visions of an idyllic, peaceful year of exploration gave way to the clamor of air-raid sirens and footage of Israelis scrambling for cover. Thoughts of routine activities like buying a car, signing the kids up for school, and navigating the notoriously serpentine Israeli bureaucracy were supplanted by continuously checking Facebook and Twitter feeds, chiming in on international WhatsApp group conversations, and sending encouraging notes to friends and family whose boys had been called up to fight the terrorists.
But through it all, neither of us ever wavered in our commitment to our plan; if anything, the conflict has reinforced that commitment.
So why are we still going through with it?
We’re moving our family into a war zone because we want to provide encouragement to our brothers and sisters currently under rocket fire; to show them our profound appreciation for their sacrifices in support of the first — and immensely successful — experiment in Jewish sovereignty in 2,000 years; and to reassure them that their American siblings have not neglected them and, on the contrary, are ready, willing, and able to join them.
We’re moving our family into a war zone because we want to show Hamas and other murderous terror groups that they cannot frighten us away; to insist to the sworn enemies of the Jewish people that their approach is destined to fail; and to demonstrate to the hordes of these terror groups’ thuggish fellow-travelers peddling tired, repugnant anti-Semitic libels in the squares of London, the streets of Sarcelles, and the plazas of Frankfurt that the Jewish people aren’t going to disappear — from Israel, or from anywhere.
We’re moving our family into a war zone because we want to bolster the critically important economic, political, military, and moral links between the United States and Israel, two nations conceived, through blood, in ideals of freedom, independence, and religious liberty; to express the gratitude of the Jewish people for enduring American support, whether in the form of the technological and financial contributions underlying the Iron Dome batteries so essential to Israel’s missile defense or in the form of vocal support at the United Nations and other institutions of the international community; and to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Americans holding dual Israeli–American citizenship like Naftali Frankel, whose kidnapping and murder by Hamas ignited the current crisis, and Max Steinberg of Los Angeles and Sean Carmeli of South Padre Island, Texas, both of whom perished in the Israel Defense Forces’ ground operations in Gaza.
We’re moving our family into a war zone because we want to deepen our children’s connection to the people, land, and state of Israel; to deeply instill in them the Zionist values of self-reliance, ethical conduct, and Jewish nationhood; to show them first-hand the dynamic, innovative spirit of the Israeli people; to immerse them in an experiential education that goes beyond the school day; and to foster and witness their wonder and excitement at all that the Jewish people have achieved in a matter of decades — warts and all.
But most important, we’re moving our family into a war zone because we want to show our children that these values outweigh the creature comforts of home; that the importance of Jewish peoplehood trumps the safety we take for granted; that some historic causes outrank individual desires; and that millions of our brethren tolerate these dangers on a daily basis to live these ideals.
To be sure, we’ve taken great pains to explain these issues carefully and sensitively to our children, and to shield our younger ones for as long as possible from the harsh realities on the ground. But they understand, instinctively, that children their age are whiling their summer away in sealed rooms, not swimming pools, and that campers spend much of their time in bomb shelters, not beach chairs.
We hope, of course, that this won’t be our kids’ fate, that by the time we arrive, the missiles will have subsided. But in a country living on the razor’s edge, with virtually no margin for error, some recurrence of the present troubles is likely over the next twelve months. All too soon, our kids, too, will learn the “Code Red Song,” a ditty composed by Israeli child psychologists to help young ones in bomb shelters cope with the stress. All too soon they will understand, viscerally, that anti-Jewish animus still exists — but also that an unapologetic Jewish faith and culture still thrives.
One day, Scripture assures us, peace will envelop the Holy Land. Until then, life goes on in the Middle East, however haphazardly. Very shortly, that life will be ours.
— Michael M. Rosen is an attorney and writer. Debra S. Rappaport Rosen is a nonprofit consultant. They live in San Diego (for another two weeks). Reach them, respectively, at [email protected] and [email protected].