I'm extremely fortunate to live in a bubble of my own making. Inside my bubble, the Southern California weather is kind, my home is a comfortable and happy place to be, and my surroundings provide a satisfying variety of friends and activities. Exercise keeps me relatively healthy for a deteriorating senior. All's well for now.
But lately there are leaks threatening my bubble life. Innocent tourists are being shot down, thousands of sad children are pouring in over the U.S. border seeking refuge from violence, sirens are screaming warnings in Israel, and Gaza is exploding. Although none of these tragedies is happening directly to me, I can't help being affected by them. My mood sinks lower and lower as I listen to the terrible news. Not listening to the news doesn't help either because the thoughts and mental vignettes linger.
My first time in Israel was as a volunteer on a kibbutz. My mind still holds the picture of seeing a violin case at a kibbutz concert with an uzi resting next to it. The same fingers that delicately brought forth exquisite music from the violin also could squeeze the trigger of an uzi. Not long afterward, I awoke to a kibbutz of all women and children. During the night, all the men, who remain in the reserves until the age of 54, had left to protect Israel from what was then a war with Lebanon.
Later, as an immigrant in Israel, I grew to understand more about the conflict between Arabs and Jews within Israel. I eventually joined a coexistence program that allowed me to live as the only Jew in a town of 30,000 Arabs in Israel. Called Interns for Peace, Israeli Arabs and Jews arranged meetings between Arab and Jewish schoolchildren from neighboring towns. It was something I could contribute to coexistence in Israel. I lived there in Shefaram among Arab Muslims, Christians, and Druse for 18 months. I loved it.
And then the Intifada of 1988 started. One dark night while I slept, gasoline was poured over the two front tires of the car I lovingly had dubbed Magic Carpet Leaf. My neighbors called me after the firemen had put out the fire. There I stood in the moonlight saying a tearful goodbye to the black-encrusted skeleton of my car, and soon afterward, to my life in the town.
There are often a combination of reasons that go into a decision, but I know that a large part of why I eventually decided to leave Israel was because I felt so torn apart by the Arab-Jewish conflict. After achieving a deeper understanding of the history and the complexities of both Arabs and Jews in Israel, I could see no resolution.
I physically left Israel in 1989, but I never completely left emotionally. My years in Israel among Arabs, Jews, and newly arrived Ethiopian immigrants live with me wherever I am. And so does their pain.