Wartime in Jerusalem (Guest Blog)

31 Jul

The fall of 2000 wasn’t the greatest season in Israel. An American woman who was moving into her apartment in Jerusalem was murdered when the first car bomb of the 2nd Intifada exploded. This was right behind my teacher’s house. The next day she brought in a chunk of the debris to let us smell it and touch it and feel the vibrating hatred behind the reason why it wasn’t still in automobile form. I lived in Jerusalem, you see. I was in high school on NFTY- Eisendrath International Exchange. I was no longer living a peaceful semester in the most beautiful and culture rich city in the world. I was living the unfortunate reality of an Israeli.

Despite the immediate presence of danger not one of the 34 students in my semester were pulled out by their parents. The thing is, in my experience, I was safer in Israel than I still would be walking as a young woman on the streets of some neighborhoods in Chicago, New York City, Miami etc. The Israeli government goes above and beyond to keep her citizens safe. We were no longer allowed to go to the Kotel alone, we couldn’t take a bus around town and there was even one day when Jerusalem was on such high alert that they took us for a “beach day” to Tel Aviv to stay far from any clear and present danger.

My semester in Jerusalem is something that I would never ever in a million years or for a million dollars trade. I made lifelong friends and even though my passport doesn’t say “Israeli” I feel like one. NFTY- EIE taught me so much about Israeli and Jewish history by taking us to the places we learned about yesterday, by teaching us Hebrew and by keeping us in the middle of the very reason why we as Jews must always always keep Israel in our minds.  My question for parents and teenagers is, would you feel the same as me if put in this same situation? How would you react and why?

Jessi Sheslow is the Jewish Federation’s new Young Adult Division (YAD) associate. Jessi has been involved in the Jewish community her entire life.  She is a film school graduate and former Associate Producer at a television company.  

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