An Update from Israel: November 19, 2012

November 19, 2012

Dear USYers, Parents, and Staff,

I write today in light of the current situation occurring in the Middle East. Over the past few days, the Hamas terror organization has caused major problems in and around the Gaza Strip territory. From using human shields to hide their artillery to blatantly attacking southern Israel, the group is downright brazen. Since Wednesday, they have fired over 1,000 rockets into the Jewish State. Primarily hitting the south, they have also shot multiple times at Tel-Aviv and even aimed for Jerusalem. For the past several years, life has been very difficult in the south. Yet, the last few days have seen a significant increase in attacks and property damage. Based on social network observations, it is clear that many of you are following the media’s reports. While I encourage you to stay properly informed, educated, and ready to advocate for Israel, it is important to hear a different view of the situation.

For those who don’t know, I am currently living in Israel on the Conservative Movement’s Leadership Gap – Year Program called Nativ. For 32 years, Nativ (meaning path) has brought hundreds of Conservative Jewish teens to experience our Jewish homeland. Since September, I have lived in the heart of the holiest city in the world – Jerusalem. Home to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, it is a model for peace. While news channels and politics continue to portray negativity, I want to tell you firsthand what the situation is like.

Optimism, hope, and pride are adjectives that exemplify the mindset of everyone in this country. The IDF has taken out hundreds of terror sites, eliminated countless Hamas leaders, and the new Iron Dome Defense System has stopped over 300 rockets. Those in the south are sadly used to these attacks and are ready to endure its misery. They are experienced in reacting and listen to the IDF’s (Israel Defense Force) instructions. In the rest of the country, life continues on as normal. People are working, shopping, and walking around as if nothing is going on. While the conflict is being discussed, everyone does so in a mature / nonchalant manner. I am going to school, just like you. I am stressed studying for my midterms, just like you. And I go out and eat delicious sandwiches for lunch, hopefully just like you.

My fellow Nativers, Jerusalemites, and Israelis feel very safe. Last Friday in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat services, the air raid siren surprisingly sounded in Jerusalem. We accepted the reality of the situation, immediately moved into a safe zone, and waited until the coast was clear. Ultimately the rocket completely missed its target and caused no injuries. We kept calm and carried on with our beautiful davening.

Therefore, I want you to know that fear is inevitable but showing it is not. Throughout our long history the Jewish people have been attacked out of pure hatred. Yet, Israel and the Jewish people have always prevailed. Our strength, resilience, and determination to live peacefully drive us forward. Post the truth on Twitter or Facebook. Teach your friends about the situation. But most importantly, keep your head up. Nativ, USY Israel Pilgrimage, and our other programs are great ways to stay involved. United Synagogue Youth is delighted to bring you high quality and immersive experiences in Israel. Don’t let what you see on television bring you down. Our summer trips and yearlong program are in close communication with security officials year round. Therefore, with experienced professional staff and eager participants, we don’t let situations like these affect us. Come here and experience the Jewish homeland yourself! I am proud to represent an organization that supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself – you should be too!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Joshua Ull
USY International President 2012