Standing Proud and Connected

Leora Schonbrun

I decided I wanted to go on TRY way before October 7th. I had dreamed of a semester in Israel for many years, and no war was going to change my mind. My worry was not that I would be unsafe here, but that TRY would be canceled. I knew things would have to look different this semester – fewer kids, some schedule changes, different programming… I was okay with all of that. When TRY got the green light to run, I was ecstatic. And then finally I got here, and the first 8 days in Israel were incredible. Everything was moving so fast and we were so excited for the semester ahead. Then the 9th day of TRY came, where we visited Kikar Hatufim (Hostages Square), and nothing could have prepared me for how difficult it would be to see first hand. We walked around the huge fountain completely covered with memorials and we cried. I had no words, filled with a feeling of incredible sense of loss. As I walked through the tunnels that represented what the hostages are living in right now, I was overcome with sorrow while also incredibly inspired by the messages all over the tunnels. So, so many messages that there was no room for me to write anything. We sat all together and talked with our staff about the hostages, how this happened, and what we can do. After talking, listening and looking around for a while, we went to do Mincha. I had never in my life felt so connected to my prayers. We met up with other Ramah Solidarity participants, who kept coming up to us to tell us how proud they were of us for being here. Our tears continued to fall. 

While I came to Israel 11 days ago, it wasn’t until the 9th day that I truly understood why I am here. We are here to feel, understand, and to see first hand what it is like to live in Israel, specifically during these times. We get to be here during one of the most important and challenging periods in Israel and Jewish history. When it feels like the entire world is against us, we get to stand proud, learn, and then go home and educate others on our experiences. On how this conflict affects not only me, but every single Jewish person. I now understand why I felt so pulled to be here, and after witnessing so much loss, I know I am going to take advantage of every single opportunity we get here. 

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