Five: the children who became my sisters
and brothers in a a short amount of time
Four: the sirens that pierced my ears as I escaped
to the safe room
Three: the Shabbats I
spent in company with laughter, love, and happiness
Two: the colorful Rainbow Loom bracelets crafted
with love and care from my campers
my family in Israel.
the week lost.
Driving to our family
friend’s house, my heart felt heavy. The green fields rolled and rolled in the
distance, and the cloudless blue, hazy sky stretched into the yonder. Next to
me, Lihi held Dvir’s surprise birthday cake on her lap—bomba cake, of
course—and Lavi was telling me stories in Hebrew. Ken … B’emet? …
Nachon … Ani mevinah. The challah was baked and the sleepover
blankets and pillows rested on top of my feet. Windows down, air blowing into
our faces, and the latest “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle” song was playing from the
I found peace.
And then there was
still that what if voice inside me. This is what scared me most. Find a
wall. Find a ditch. Run away from the car. Lay down. Hands over head. All in 30
Unexpectedly, less than 24 hours later, I stepped
onto the plane that would take me from one home to another. I was oh so
desperately holding back the waterfall that was to pour over my tired face. Only
hours before, I was laughing in the grass and taking silly selfies with my host
sisters. Only hours before, I was staring at the almost-full moon as the sun
began to set over the foothills. Only hours before, I was sitting at the
Shabbat dinner table, laughing with the teens and adults at the social media
memes making fun of “the situation.”
demolished cake sat on the counter behind me, and the women’s faces were wet
around the eyes, bodies shaking so hard from their laughter at the simplest of
jokes. For this laughter was the relief to the stress of the week before:
sleeping in the family room with the children, dealing with fussy children after
too much time inside their home for too many days, running into the safe room
after singing “happy birthday.”
Then I was running through
the Zurich, Switzerland airport, desperately trying to beat the 10 remaining
minutes on my watch before my Chicago-bound plane departed. Still holding back
And then I was home. Waking to the voices of
my own family—not my Israeli family. Running the streets of Chicagoland
suburbs—not the empty Shabbat streets of Kiryat Gat.
was I holding back this waterfall?
I embarked on my
Kefiada journey to experience the real Israel—the Israel that neither my
BBYO trip, nor my family trip, nor my Write On for Israel trip showed me. I
returned from Israel having experienced. The lazy Shabbat afternoons
spent with family watching the World Cup games, the evening strolls to the
nearby park, and making friendship bracelets with my Israeli campers—the campers
to whom I was not able to say “l’hitraot.” Not good bye—despite this being an
English-speaking camp. There will be a next time.
home from Israel wondering: How will this experience shape my future in the
Jewish community? What will my impact be? Spend more college summers working in
Israel. Continue my advocacy on the Hill. Become a part of Federation
leadership. Wherever and however I can positively impact Israel the
“Follow your heart, and you will go far,” engraved in
Hebrew on the silver, heart-shaped necklace that encompasses my being. The
inside of this necklace reads my name, Chanah, the name I still hear my host
family calling me. Chanaleh … Chan’oosh. I will continue to
follow my heart.
Undistorted by a waterfall.
Seeing where my path takes me.
Hannah Schlacter just returned from Israel where she was a counselor at JUF's Camp Kefiada. Read her previous reflection on being in Israel when the rocket fire began here.