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Danita Aziza and her husband Michel


By Danita Aziza, June 3, 2010

LESSON #7:  There is No Place Like Home-And A Home Needs to be Protected

I’m not much of a traveller and generally prefer sticking close to home, but last week Michel and I travelled to the Southern part of France for a four day reprieve.  We met our very good friends and a long time colleague of Michel’s just outside of Avignon and spent time visiting small villages and getting a taste of the French countryside and culture.

We were fortunate to have Michel as not only our driver, but as our native French-speaking guide who helped to translate everything from menus to directions from our GPS Goddess, that we affectionately named Sylvie.  The weather was perfect, the scenery divine, the food light and delicious and the people ever so polite and proper.  Everything was so peaceful and calm, quiet and clean that any sane individual would beg to prolong their stay in a place so idyllic.  Not me.
I loved our time spent with friends and appreciated the privilege of being able to steal a holiday away without children and indulge myself a little, but by Sunday my bags were packed and I was more than willing and ready to return to Israel.

While I have travelled to Israel many times in the past, Sunday was the first time that I experienced flying to Israel from a destination other than Canada.  There is a difference.  As we entered the Marseille Airport it took us a bit of time to find the El Al check-in counter.  If it weren’t for the Datim (religious Jews) that we spotted, we might still be looking.  The check-in is at the far end of the airport removed from the other airlines.  I should have known that the fully armed soldiers (there were three of them) that circled the far end of the departure hall could have been an indication of where the Israeli airline was housed.  We were greeted by a bevy of El Al security and ticket agents who no doubt questioned us profusely on the nature of our trip to France and our reasons for residing in Israel.  We didn’t mind the line of questioning and the entire staff were extremely pleasant, albeit quite serious.

While browsing in Duty Free prior to the flight, my ears perked up as I overheard a rather  large delegation  trying to tell the cashier that they wanted to have their purchase split into three payments ( a purchase plan unique to Israel and a totally foreign concept to anyone else).  It wasn’t only their accents or their Hebrew that gave away the individuals place of residency, but rather their insistence that multiple payments was indeed possible.  

The boarding of our flight was never announced, but we knew it was time to make our way to the gate when a large crowd, in unison, got out of their seats and made their way to a type of holding room separated from the other waiting areas.  I felt more than a little uneasy, but the apprehension dissipated a bit as soon as Hebrew chatter filled my eardrums and warm smiles greeted my glances.  It was strikingly clear that flying to Israeli on an Israeli airline from a French airport is a different travel experience where security is not to be minimized or taken for granted.

We arrived home in the wee hours of Monday morning, tired yet somewhat relieved to be back on familiar soil.  The calm of the previous days was almost immediately offset by news of the Flotilla incident that flooded both my e-mail in-basket and the local news stations.  Phone calls with friends didn’t revolve around tales of our travels, but rather an exchange of information that we were able to glean from the news reports and our ‘Lone Soldier’ Daniel. We learned that his paratrooper jump had been cancelled that day and that there had been a bomb scare at Hebrew University.  Yes, we were certainly back in Israel where in a moment focus changes from the mundane to the intensely serious.

How odd it now seems that just 48 hours ago we were walking the paths of a serene French village and now we were totally engrossed in life in a country that seems to be constantly on the edge in so many respects.  You obviously continue with daily life, yet you feel the weight of what is on everyone’s mind here.  There are the daily activities of life that everyone everywhere experiences and then there is a whole other dimension that occupies your inner thoughts and feelings.  This is something hard to explain or articulate, but it is for me, what distinguishes my life in Canada to my life now here in Israel.
Events that occur in Israel are now up close and personal.  You feel the wrath of world opinion and take it personally.  Your frustration as you watch the international news channels and surf the net grows and you try to find ways to productively channel such frustration.   I steal moments to be better informed of the facts and listen to opinions of Israeli neighbours and friends, and I try to gain a sense of what is being voiced on the local news stations, although with limited Hebrew this isn’t easy.  Most importantly, I think of the IDF soldiers, the ones that had to board the ship, their youth and bravery representative of so many in this country, and I think of the parents who have children in the army and thus spend days and nights wrapped in angst and uncertainty.  While the rest of the world reads and watches and passes judgement, those who live here must maintain their strength and optimism and meet the daunting task of maintaining the security of the nation amid mounting international negativity and condemnation.  No easy task for anyone who leads this country or is responsible for the safety and security of its soldiers and citizens.

 Last year I told a friend who was visiting that if I was to remain in Israel I would have to find some way to contribute to the country.  She responded by saying that she thought it was enough that I was here with my husband and children and that just by virtue of living here I was contributing.  At the time I considered the statement trite, but no longer.  In spite of all the turmoil, uncertainty and unease today and most surely in the days to follow, Israel is home and, as such, must be protected, supported and defended. 

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