Op-Ed: The Intensity of Living in Israel
There is so much going on in Israel these days – so much that should certainly be receiving our attention. We have the ongoing situation in Iran. We had the almost-war in Gaza. We have the various party primaries in full-swing. And, of course, we have the upcoming elections in January.
And each of those issues/events is important.
But sometimes, we here in Israel are a bit out of the mix.
During Operation Pillar of Defense, when I spoke with my dad on the phone, he said, “So looks like there’s going to be a ceasefire tonight.”
I hadn’t heard that yet, but I was sure he was right.
You see, there is a dynamic that I’ve always been fascinated with, both before we made Aliyah and since. That dynamic is that when I was not living in Israel, I sometimes felt that I knew what was going on in Israel better than my friends who had already made the big move. And that’s now the case with my parents and friends who remain back in the Galut.
And the reason for that, I always felt, was that those outside of Israel (including myself at the time) depended more on the news media for their information about Israel than those living here. And, in fact, that is true. But that is not the reason, it is simply the outcome.
It’s like saying that the reason a basketball player’s shot went in the hoop is because he shot the ball. While true, it doesn’t explain what made his shot go in, while other shots don’t go in.
So what is the reason it sometimes seems those outside Israel know better than we do what is going on here?
The answer is life. Life is the reason.
But not simply in the classic sense of “life getting in the way.” No, my point is that life is just bigger and, as I’ve said before, more intense here.
This past Friday, I had a wonderfully uplifting happy/sad/memorable experience that fits nicely into the “intense life” category, and I think others can benefit from knowing about it.
I participated in the 2nd Annual “Anna’s Run,” which is a 14- or 28-kilometer trail run in the heart of the Land of Israel. And yes, this past Friday’s run was memorable because it was raining almost the entire time. (Remember, we LOVE rain here in Israel.) And yes, it was particularly enjoyable because my sister – visiting from the U.S. – ran it as well. And, of course, the fact that it was followed by a great breakfast didn’t hurt either.
But what made it intense – what made it something that I am already looking forward to next year – is the impetus for the run itself, namely Anna.
So who’s Anna?
Well, I never met Anna, and I don’t even know much about her. But I know that due to her mental illness – which she battled for years – she unfortunately took her own life at the age of 18. And I know that her mother took up running as a way to cope with such a profound loss. I also know that her parents sponsor this run each year as a thank-you for all the support Anna’s mother receives from a unique running club in the Bet Shemesh area.
I attended the run last year. It didn’t rain, but I did get lost on the trails, which meant I wound up running (and walking) an extra seven kilometers I wasn’t supposed to run. After the run – at the breakfast – Anna’s mom talked about how incredible running had been for her own wellbeing.
But this year, Anna’s mom – a now-fantastic runner – decided to talk about the elephant in the room (She even brought a plush elephant to the run as a visual aide.). She decided to talk about Anna, her illness and suicide in general.
She told us that suicide takes as many Israeli lives each year (400) as car accidents do. She told us that through psychological counseling and medication some who have what Anna had can get through a nice long life, but they are still in so much pain during those long years. She wondered out loud why so much is invested in driver education and promotion of safe driving, and not as much is dedicated to helping those who can wind up where Anna wound up.
And Anna’s mom (with Anna’s dad beside her) was so strong during her speech that she didn’t even cry.
But I did. And my sister did. And I think a lot of us tough runners – so tough that we ran 14 or 28 kilometers in the rain and mud and cold – cried last Friday morning.
And I think that may be why we sometimes don’t know the latest on the ceasefire, or the Likud primaries, or Ahmadinejad or even the projections for number of Knesset seats each party will win come January.
Because we have car accidents. We have suicides. We have the rain to pray for. We have the most intense life of anywhere on the planet.
You know, as we left Al Derech Burma (the running store that plays host to Anna’s Run), my sister said to me, “I just feel so good right now.”
I agreed with her. I felt good, too. It’s good to run in the rain. It’s good to cry a little bit. It’s good to show up, even when the weather is not ideal for running, to support Anna’s parents.
But what was behind the “good” feeling we had?
The intensity that comes with day-to-day living in the Land of Israel.