Right now, Israel is sweltering, baking in an epic heat wave. My cousin, visiting this past weekend, scoffed at the mid-80s California version of a heat wave. At his kibbutz near Jerusalem it was over 100 degrees. And it’s about my cousin, or, more to the point, his family that I want to talk with you today. I wrote this two weeks ago, and I want to share it with you, the NIF community. I think, at times like these, it’s important to remember that, even amidst the the atmosphere of hatred and incitement that characterizes much of the discourse in Israel today, there is hope, there are heroes, and there is an Israel worth fighting for.
It’s very difficult to find light in the darkness of the past few days in Israel. But I want to share a little bit of light that has, on a very personal level, given me comfort and yes, pride.
Some of you know that my “home away from home” in Israel is a kibbutz not far from Jerusalem. My cousin David moved there from NJ when he was 19. He soon met another young American, Joanie from Berkeley, and they got married. They have five kids, all spectacular. Yiftach is a former Air Force commando who now works as a teacher; Amir is a dancer with the Pennsylvania ballet company (he and his husband Ohad were married this month in the kibbutz’s first same sex marriage). Maayan recently finished her service as a combat paramedic in the Nahal, and she is preparing to take medical school entrance exams; Ro’ee is serving in the Tank Corps; and Keren is in high school.
So now you know my Israeli family. As many of my Israeli NIF colleagues know, they are quite the NIF family. They come to events, volunteer at NIF organizations and are, basically, “our Israel.” In short, you’d all love them.
A few weeks ago, Joanie and Maayan went to Jerusalem to march in Pride. They ended up right next to the attacker. There is a terribly disturbing picture of the attack that appeared in the Israeli papers. I won’t post it here, because it is extremely upsetting (you can find it with a quick Google search). The photo captures the attacker stabbing a marcher, as the police try to grab ahold of him. To the left, you see a woman in sunglasses holding a “Love is Love” sign. That’s Maayan. In the next moment, the attacker lunged for her. Mayan did not run away. Instead, she stood her ground and confronted the attacker. She pushed him away with her sign, and, as the police wrestled the assailant to the ground, she began treating the critically wounded woman.
Whenever the times are dark and difficult in Israel I turn for comfort, inspiration and hope to our Israeli colleagues and grantees, who work heroically against long odds to build the Israel we believe in. Today I’m very proud to count my heroic cousin Maayan amongst their number.