My mind and heart were scattered yesterday morning as I figured out what to wear for Wear Your NFTY, Camp and Israel T-Shirt Day or, as I like to call it, wear your swag to work day. I wrote several months ago about how camp is home to me. And, in truth, over the years, several camps have become home to me. I truly do believe that camp is magic and it’s important to me to support the idea of camp and its importance for our young people. Even as I continue to develop a relationship with Jewish camp life as an adult. NFTY, too, is an organization that is near to my heart. Ultimately, I settled on my Camp Harlam Faculty t-shirt from this summer and a NFTY sweatshirt. I chose that sweatshirt because it’s also a Netzer sweatshirt.
Netzer, is the international Reform Zionist youth movement, of which NFTY became a part several years ago. Netzer stands for which stands for Noar Tzioni Reformi (Reform Zionist Youth). I chose that sweatshirt because it didn’t only stand for NFTY, but because it also stood for the other place my mind and heart were, as the news began to come in faster and faster of the war that increasingly seems to be brewing in Israel.
For many Jews, myself included, Israel is like family…we don’t always agree with her, but we love her anyway. When she’s doing something that we disagree with, we speak out against her actions from a place of love. And when she’s being attacked, we support her and stand with her.
These past days, as hundreds of rockets have been fired into Israeli neighborhoods (in addition to the thousands of rockets over the past several years), Israel has responded by targeting terrorists and the leaders of Hamas and other terrorist organizations; dropping pamphlets over Gaza beforehand, and begging the civilians of Gaza to get to safety and move away from the areas that were to be targeted.
Personally, I cannot just watch Israel be under attack, knowing that in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there are sirens going off, and that rockets are attacking cities that I have been to and that I know people in, a city I’ve lived in, and not stand with Israel from wherever I find myself.
And so I found my heart (more than a little) torn yesterday, as I thought of my camp and youth group friends, many of whom I’m still friends with and I still think of as family, and my family of the Jewish people in Israel, in a land that I love. It seemed almost silly to be wearing a camp t-shirt when I was reading horrific news. But then I realized that it was because of that camp and that organization that I grew to love Israel in the first place.
It was at camp that I knew other Israeli kids and had Israeli counselors, it was with camp and NFTY that I first travelled to Israel in high school, and it was through NFTY that I had the opportunity to visit Israel a few summers later and work there. It was through them that my relationship with Israel became real and became solid. In many ways, I owe my love of Israel to the Reform Movement’s Youth Programs. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. Indeed, that’s part of the reason why I’ve done so much to bring those experience to new generations. And as I express my love for camp and for NFTY and for Israel, I realize that all of those thoughts of love and hope and connection are intermingled in many ways.
So yesterday, knowing that for every message I read on facebook filled with hate towards Israel, many from people I respect, filled with opinions formed on half-truths and an anti-Israel biased western media, I came to realize that it was increasingly important for me to stand by the side of my other homeland. To try to give facts and teach and inform and to stand up for what I believe is right. To show them MY Israel, a place that I love for a reason.
And, yes, to pray. To pray for all the fighting to be over. To pray for peace. To pray for the healing of ALL people in that region, so that their children can thrive away from bombs and rockets, running through playgrounds and not crouching in bomb shelters. To pray that everyone there, regardless of nationality or religion, can live a life of peace.
So yes, my heart is in the east. And even as I hope and pray for peace, I fight for Israel, however little power I may have to do so from the middle of Texas, to use what I do have to speak up and speak out and to stand where my heart is.