By Joshua Hoffman
The 2014 Write On for Israel Fellows at Independence Hall in Israel.
When I was entering third grade, I visited Israel with three other families and my own. In a word, the trip was magical. I later visited Israel in eighth grade and again, in a word, the trip was magical.
Both trips were truly just magical – though nothing more. I was only given a heroic and romanticized view of Israel. These perfect experiences did make me want to make aliyah, but they were not a full view of Israel. They were just one side.
Last Friday night during our first Shabbat dinner in Israel as Write On for Israel Fellows, the public saw a rally in Gaza that supported the abduction of the three Israeli teens.
When the news of the rally broke, the host family I was staying with was livid. A guest of my host family, a 20-year-old Israeli who was serving in the Navy, took me outside and asked what I thought about Israel. I instinctively responded, "I love it." He then rhetorically asked, "even though three teens were just kidnapped and you are always waiting for some terrorist to strike?"
I was caught dead in my tracks, and the magic of Israel had disappeared, replaced by a multi-dimensional one. Israel suddenly became a country with security threats and a society that views missile attacks as a norm. Simultaneously, it became a country where I can still easily talk to a 20-year-old soldier who lives halfway around the world.
I also know, however, that this threatened nation still has that magic thriving alongside every fear and threat to society. During my weekend in JUF's Partnership Together region, Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir, Israel became real. It became a tangible reality with people who must not be overlooked when we make generalizations about a country. I now know that when I advocate for Israel I will not only be advocating for the magical place I saw as kid, but also for the 20-year-old soldier – the one who was pissed off by what he saw on TV, who still loves Israel in the wake of an act of terror.
Joshua Hoffman is a rising senior at Highland Park High School and a Write On for Israel Fellow. He is currently in Israel with his Write On cohort, and his stay in JUF's Partnership Together region, Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir, was part of the experience.
Write On for Israel is a project of JUF’s Israel Education Center.