This week I was walking pass a neighborhood called Friendship Heights on my way to one of the host family’s houses. As I was walking, the symmetry of what I saw around me was almost unbearable. Maybe it was because of the bad mood I had been in since the morning- but something about the manicured lawns, the silence, and the birds… it drove me crazy. It was like walking inside of a postcard – almost unreal.
I’m walking and thinking – what am I so upset about? On one hand, there is something very tempting about this place. Something about the American dream feels so easy – easy life, wealth, no worries… The common ground is so broad that anyone can be included. But on the other hand, this summer just taught me how much I appreciate my life back home. I love my friends, I love the language, I love the culture and the food. When Americans hear our stories, they must think we live in the worst place on earth – but they just don’t know how beautiful Haifa is, how peaceful the forest is on the Carmel Mountain. They just don’t know how great the “Tel Viviane bubble” is.
That walk through Friendship Heights reminded me the sense of personal responsibility that I have. Israel is my home, and it is the place where I am needed the most. Sounds good? Well, it’s not that easy. Living in Israel comes with a price, and one has to make the decision if he or she is willing to pay it or not.
Speaking of paying the price; After the SAIS conference, where Walid, Guy, Nitzan and Yara spoke so beautifully, some of them received hate mails, some with threats. Even though it was a little scary, and we turned to the police, I was quite satisfied that the team is making somebody out there upset.
We are knocking on the walls of the status quo as hard as we can. Even though I personally feel our message is vague, it is enough to disturb the peace of the doubters. I find this fact very encouraging and I am proud to be a part of this.
One last thought: We are almost half way through the program, and the next challenge is approaching. In a little more than a week it is my turn to speak out in the Congressional Forum. Imagine the situation – you are standing in front of a microphone, in a room full of policymakers, congressman and senators. You get a once in a lifetime opportunity to say whatever you want that can hopefully make a change. What would you say?
by Noa Shapira