Why I remain in Israel

Lora Stern Druker wrote this essay in August 2014.

I live in Israel. I’ve lived here for over 30 years. I first set foot in Israel when, as a teenager, I joined with a group of Jewish youth from all over the United States to visit Israel.

Our journey of learning began with a visit to Yad Vashem and from there, we traveled throughout Israel.

After several weeks in Israel, I returned to Tucson. In conversation with my parents, Carol and Al Stern, I said that at some point in my life, I no longer wanted to sit in the grandstand and watch. I wanted to be part of the action in building a Jewish homeland.

After three years of college, I went to Israel and volunteered on a kibbutz. It was there that I met my husband-to-be. Some months later, we married. We moved to Moshav Dekel, in the south of Israel. There we raised our children, and there we still live. Our home is only two miles from the Gaza border.

For the most part we lived a peaceful life on the moshav, but always recognized the danger of living in a land where there were those who wanted my adopted country and its citizens destroyed.

Flash to now. For all that has been endured by Israel and its people over the years, I can affirm that this is the worst summer of my life. First, we have no Iron Dome in the area in which my family and friends live. Danger from rockets and terrorist incursions is always present. I want to relay just a few of the incidents that have left me more shaken than ever in my life.

Life under attack began in July of this year. One morning, about 4 a.m., I was awakened by a text message on my phone. It directed us to lock ourselves in our homes and remain there, due to a terrorist incursion. Such messages have been frequent.

Twice, walking my toddler grandson from his daycare to my home, a red alert was sounded. This means that rockets are coming. I had to lay my grandson on the ground and cover his body with mine. I needed to protect him as the rockets flew overhead. Fortunately, the rockets continued past us.

Several times at work (I work at a gym about six miles from my home), after red alerts signaling the coming of rockets, I had to lead groups of people to safety. Also, driving from the gym to my home, I’ve been stopped by police barricades informing me to pull over because terrorists were in the area.

Just prior to the latest ceasefire, I had my worst day. A barrage of rockets struck a neighboring kibbutz. Friends were killed and injured and funerals were planned. This week, a 4 ½-year-old-child was killed running from his home to his safe room. Also this week, three set of parents in my area buried children. So with all this tragedy and danger, why stay?

I stay because I believe so strongly in the values on which this country was created. In this place, our Jewish homeland, I feel more connected, in ways I’ve never felt elsewhere. Israel is a place where people can be proud of who they are. Those who built this Jewish homeland built it based on democracy, pluralism and human dignity. This is my home. This is where I want my children to raise their children. This is where I want and need to be.

I want to close by saying that I believe that everyone has the right to freedom. I am deeply upset by those who demonize innocent people on the other side of the Gaza border. There are many innocents just two kilometers away from me who are imprisoned by Hamas. We have an obligation to let people know that it is not they who are our enemies. It is Hamas who are our enemies. My fervent wish is that one day, we will all live without fear, without war and in peace.