Making Israel Home for Those Who are Far Away

Tags: Zionism, Jewish Unity, Israel Engagement, Hebrew, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom HaZikaron

by Roni Rokach

Israel, a simple word that everyone interprets differently.

Some may say “Israel” equals peace, other may say “Israel” equals arguments.

For me, Israel is home. Not just because I was born and lived there. Home in the more meaningful way: a place that you can be yourself and no one judges what you do. A place that even when you leave for a while, when you return it will feel like you never left. It is a place that you always feel welcome.

During the past month, the feeling was more clear to me than ever before. After spending a whole year in America, as a volunteer in a Jewish community, I thought this feeling may change. After all, when you live in a place for a year it kind of becomes your home. So Boston was an amazing place to live in but still it wasn’t home. The moment I went on EL AL’s flight I felt the change. Hearing Hebrew, reading Israel’s newspapers, blue and white all over; everything just felt natural, like I truly belonged.

The feeling was emphasized for me during the flight itself with the Israeli TV shows, the food and the atmosphere on the plane. When we landed the butterflies in my stomach went crazy, and every passenger on the plane clapped their hands to thank the flight crew for bringing us safely back home. As I marked 2 weeks since I am back in Israel. I have to admit I’m still adjusting to the culture, people, even the Hebrew but it still never feels weird or unnatural to be here.

The connection to Israel is always inside of me. Part of me, like I am part of it, whether I like it or not.

Over the past year I tried to bring this connection to my volunteer work and connect the community of Boston to it also. The biggest event my partner and I worked on was during the national days- Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. It was the most exciting, important and hard time to be out of Israel. The highlight for me was a big flag we made with the elementary school students and a big commemoration ceremony in our community.

For the flag, we asked each student to write one greeting or something he/she likes in Israel. It was amazing to see how creative the kids were and to feel their love and care for Israel. For the ceremony, we built a whole presentation to create an authentically Israeli ceremony, including the 2 minute siren and Daglanut (flag “dancing”). It was hard work but since we understood that it was a big opportunity for us we did our best, and I believe we succeeded in sharing our love of and pride in our homeland.

I wanted them to feel part of it even if they geographically live far away. There is a phrase that says home it’s not where you are, it’s where you feel you belong. That’s what I tried to do and I believe it’s so important to do it in any way that is possible.

Israel’s amazing views, the Israeli Slang and even my personal story was part of my way to make Israel home for them.

Israel. A beautiful country, beautiful people. Home.

Roni Rokach, 24 years old from Ashkelon. I had the opportunity in the past year and a half to get to know the Jewish community abroad from a closer look- as a social counselor and as a volunteer in Boston. It was great experiences, a time that change me and change my way of thinking a little. It make me look different on the Jewish life in general and mine specially, to appreciate what i have and to think how to share it with others...

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Tags: Zionism, Jewish Unity, Israel Engagement, Hebrew, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom HaZikaron