It’s a weird feeling that creeps up on me during this time of year. The time of year when we mark, in quick succession, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Jerusalem Day.
Although I moved to Israel more than 25 years ago, much of my world is still American. I work predominantly in English, have friends who are mostly Anglos, write and speak almost exclusively in English, go to a synagogue which is comprised mostly of English-speakers, read mostly in English. In Israel, I feel that my sensibilities and mannerisms are American (of course, the opposite is true when I am actually in the United States). I am a lifetime member of the AACI, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. And even when I speak Hebrew, in which I am fairly fluent, my accent gives me away.
But today, I am Israeli.
I will go to the central ceremony in my city memorializing the victims of the Holocaust and celebrating the lives of those who survived. I will sit among the fidgety 12th graders from Public High School #3 who will sing and act on the stage of my city’s theater, drawing lessons from their trip to Poland. I will watch as survivors from Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Romania, Tunisia, and Hungary walk slowly across the stage with their children and grandchildren to light one of 6 candles to remember their own stories among the stories of 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. I will listen as the army radio station plays song after sad song.
Today, I am Israeli.
I will stand in silence as the siren blares and the entire nation comes to a standstill for 2 minutes. The same siren sends us scurrying into safe places when sounded as a response to rockets fired on Israeli towns by those who would try to destroy us; but today, it is sounded as a remembrance of those who died because they had no safe places.
In reality, every day I live the somewhat schizophrenic life of an American Israeli, melding those parts of me which are decidedly American with those that have become Israeli. Some days, leaning more on one. Some days, leaning more on the other. And for so many of us, especially in Beer Sheva, a town which is populated by immigrants, this is the everyday reality of making a new home in a new place with old baggage.
But today, I am Israeli.
Today, I sing the national anthem, HaTikva, with others who make Israel their home, regardless of origin or creed, and know deep in my heart that, actually, everyday I’m Israeli.
Everyday, I am Israeli.