The resilience of the Israeli people
by Monica Friesen layout editor
“Why stay? Why not move to a different part of Israel?”
These are the questions that burned in my mind as I listened to Chen Kotler Abrahams describe her life in Kfar Aza, an Israeli kibbutz community just over a mile from the Gaza strip. I was sobered by the reality she described with such poise and composure.
I had the privilege of hearing from Abrahams in Israel this January together with 29 other Moody students on a tour called Israel Encounter, designed for college students to experience both ancient and modern Israel.
According to the Global Jewish Advocacy (AJC), more than 11,000 rockets have been fired by terrorists from Gaza into Israel since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Abrahams and her kibbutz community are at the front of the action. She explained that when a rocket is fired, a warning goes off in the kibbutz shouting “Red alert! Red alert!” At the warning, members of the kibbutz community have approximately 10 seconds to get to one of the nearby safe shelters scattered around the kibbutz.
That’s 10 seconds to move without thinking; to grab one’s children, or worse, choose which child to run with; to hope one’s loved ones are safe, and pray that no one gets hurt. And it happens over and over again.
As Abrahams toured us around the kibbutz I was struck by the effect living in such a troubled area had on the children. While learning about the importance of hygiene, a young student told a teacher that brushing his teeth was important because he blamed himself for a Red Alert that happened on a day when he had not brushed his teeth.
The Baby House and Kindergarten school have both been turned into safe houses — the concrete walls are cold, but they’re safe. I saw white splotches on the walls of the Baby House where repairs had been made to the damage caused by rockets and mortars. Abrahams passed around pieces of shrapnel she had kept — small, but deadly.
Despite the heavy burden of danger, fear and trouble the people of Kfar Aza carry around, they show incredible resilience. In order to help the people of the region cope with trauma, the Israel Trauma Coalition and its partners have developed Resilience Centers. These centers are there to provide support and mental health care to citizens in the Gaza area. Every resident in the region has a number of free sessions with mental health professionals as part of the Resilience Centers’ support.
Though they have enemies on three of their four borders and are one of the most hated countries in the world, the Israeli people, like Abrahams, persevere. When Chaim Weizmann — first head of state in Israel — was asked by a member of the British House of Lords why the Jewish people insisted on having the land of Israel, he said, “That is like [me] asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street.”
I eventually worked up the courage to ask Abrahams about her reasons for staying. Her answer to my question was simple: This is home.