Thanksgiving is upon us and I want share some things I am grateful for. Two things in particular I am grateful for are that I am alive and that I am an American. I am grateful I am alive because this past weekend, on Shabbat (Saturday) I was on the beach playing paddle-ball with my cousins in Tel Aviv when the air-raid sirens went off, which meant a missile was very possibly coming toward me.
Having grown up in the safe bubble of N.J. right next to NYC part of me was in denial that something like this could actually happen, missiles only get fired in the movies and on the news, not in real life and not in my life when I am on the beach with my family.
The sirens and other people running for cover cut through my haze of denial and I began to run toward the stone wall at the edge of the beach and crouched with my cousins children against the wall. The sirens were still going and I began to scan the sky to see if I could spot the missile when suddenly I saw a flash in the sky and then a few seconds later heard an enormous roar. An Iron Dome missile had intercepted the one heading toward Tel Aviv and shot it out of the sky. Right after that it began to rain.
In that moment standing in the rain, I felt as if some sort of invisible protective shield that I took for granted to be surrounding me turn suddenly out to be an illusion. So I am grateful I am alive because the experience was a lesson in how fragile life is.
I am grateful that I am an American because I have been living in Israel for the past four years, and in many ways people accept conflict here as a given. Conflict based on ethnic/religious lines and that is why I am grateful I am an American. Growing up, the fact that I was Jewish in no way stopped me from being friends with Christians, Muslims, African Americans, Japanese people, the beautiful melting pot of all kinds of people living together and celebrating with them their culture just as they celebrated mine. That differing belief systems in no way meant that there had to be conflict. Our identity as Americans, a country based on the ideals of welcoming all people and affording them the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness made space for our differences in a way that allowed them to come together and enrich each other.
I am thankful that as a Jewish American and Israeli citizen, I still feel those values inside me and I dont see the current conflict here as a given no matter how intractible it may seem. As an American I the see possibility for peace, where we the Jewish people are working together with all the other people residing in Israel to truly make it a Holy Land.