The differences between my childhood and that of my children’s often hit me square in the face. When I realized their unaccented English may be the only American thing about them. Or that my grandkids may speak only Hebrew. Or that the important job of teaching them the timeless Pesach classic “The Frog Song” falls solely on me. (Same goes for “I Had a Little Dreidel.”)
I may be Israeli now, but the first thirty years of my life were spent in America. And no amount of drinking chocolate milk from a little bag and trying to roll my “r’s” can erase that. You can take the girl out of America, but…
And no time is this friction greater, this being of two worlds, than during the week of Yom Hazikaron (memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror) and Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s independence day). There’s always a certain amount of guilt I feel. After all, I personally didn’t do much to protect Israel. I didn’t serve in the army or do a year of “sherut leumi” (national service) after high school. Neither did my husband. We grew up in the sheltered world of a country with a volunteer army. War was a far-off thing, fought by other people.
So Yom Hazikaron, for me, lacks an immediacy and intimacy. The people who fought and died for Israel are my brothers and sisters in the all-of-Israel-are-brethren sort of way, but not my actual brothers and sisters. When I look around at the ceremony which bridges the sadness of Yom Hazikaron with the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, I realize that for all of our Israeli friends, this is immediate, this is intimate. They served (and many continue to serve, as reservists), they fought, they lost loved ones. It’s a gap I will never be able to cross.
Then, while I’m feeling this guilt, this otherness, I look down beside me at my own kids. I am filled with pride and fear because one day, they will serve their country. And when that happens, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut will suddenly take on new meaning for all of us.
So yes, I will always be an immigrant, always be in between. But I am here now. And I—along with my immigrant husband and our Israeli children—will mourn our fallen soldiers and celebrate our country’s independence with all of our hearts.