by Christina Johns
Chicago, Ill, July 9, 2014 – In the last 24 hours, 160 rockets were fired at Israel, and 23 of them were intercepted. That’s one rocket for every seven minutes. It’s hard to believe that it’s really happening, but just as I’m having the thought – another siren is sounding in Israel. This is real, and there is no time for daydreaming, not when you have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter.
I’m not a political commentator and I don’t claim to be a scholar in Middle Eastern policy or foreign relations. I don’t think I have the answer to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. My knowledge of Israel doesn’t come from school, books, or lectures. It comes from the time I spend there and the friends I’ve made who call it home.
Today, I spoke with three of those friends, as I always do when there are rockets launched into Israel (sadly, a somewhat regular occurrence). I “touch base” to make sure they are OK. The conversation goes something like, “Hey, just checking – everything kosher?” To this they usually respond with something equally witty with that special Israeli bite to it, but they always seem lighthearted when we speak on these occasions. We end the calls with “I love you” and “speak to you soon” as they assure me all is “kosher.”
But the conversations I had today were different. Today there was fear, anger, and uncertainty in my friends’ voices as they told me what it was like to hear code red sirens in Jerusalem and to lay awake as the sound of helicopters and explosions are heard around their homes. Today my conversations left me feeling utterly helpless as people who mean so much to me go through hell.
Eight years ago, I wouldn’t be paying attention to what’s happening in Israel. Beyond glancing at headlines as I skimmed Facebook or Twitter, I would know nothing about the relentless terrorism that plagues a country no bigger than New Jersey. But now, after dedicating years of my life to that tiny country, it’s become personal. I may be half a world away, not particularly political, and not Jewish, but none of those things matter when you stop seeing Israel as blip on CNN or BBC news alerts or as part of a “Middle Eastern Problem” and start seeing Israel as the home of people you love. And when someone you love is in danger and their livelihood and freedoms are challenged, you stand up for them, regardless of where you live, how you vote, or what you believe.
It is for those reasons I continue to stand with Israel and why I will continue to hope that there will be peace for everyone in the region who has been dreaming of it for so long – and that those who conspire against peace are finally overcome by the majority of those who do.
Christina Johns is Creative Director at The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.