Last semester, when I was studying abroad in Tel Aviv, one of my friends turned to me and asked if our five months there counts as living in another country.
It was an interesting question which I had not thought about yet, but my answer was an immediate “yes.” I was living in the same dorm complex as the Israeli students; I bartered with the same sellers in the same language at the Shuk as the locals; I felt as much a part of Israel as I do America—possibly even more so. Even more important, however, is the sense of belonging I feel every time I arrive.
I am therefore personally and deeply upset by Israel’s current situation, both as a Jew and as someone who has lived there. When I hear about terrorism in Tel Aviv, it is my home being attacked. When stories of stabbings in Jerusalem reach the news, I think about all the time I spent there and my friends who currently go about their daily lives despite the constant threat of terror. Just as painful is the approach Western media has taken regarding the conflict. Victimizing the terrorists does nothing but perpetuate the already existing anti-Israel sentiment which is prevalent in this part of the world. This is the view pushed onto my peers, and this is the view they will inevitably adopt simply because the truth is nowhere to be found.
It is also important to understand that Israel is more than just a country. It is more than its borders and politics and conflict. Israel is more than just a state; it is an idea, a belief, and a dream. It is the realization of Jewish nationalism that has persisted for thousands of years. When I say I support Israel, I am saying that I support the existence of a Jewish nation. I am saying that I support the Jewish yearning for a homeland. I am saying that I support the right of the Jewish people to live together and without fear.
We have survived persecution, genocide, and hatred. We have lived through anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. We will survive this too. And that is what we mean when we say .עם ישראל חי