Israel's Unflappable Will
"As the years have gone by," she says, "I have become no
n the past year, Detroit native Laurie Sendler
obsessed than my native-born neighbors ... to . see
Rappeport, who lives in the artists' quarter of Safed,
has encountered at least 20 Americans who have
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Israelis have
made aliyah to Israel, or who plan to, despite the 27-
immersed themselves in tracking the news both on radio,
month-long Palestinian uprising.
which lets their imaginations stray, and on television,
Not one has talked about "going back" or "not coming"
which provides a visual connection. TV, Rappeport says,
because of the intifada, she says.,
tends "to show the least injured, not the most horrific
Those on the cusp of becoming U.S. emigres to the
Jewish state are more interested in finding housing, schools
Here in America, a multitude of personal commitments,
for their children and jobs. Palestinian ter-
responsibilities and interests vie for our time with news-
ror and violence have taken more than 700
casts and talk shows both on radio and television. In Israel,
Israeli and foreign lives, including at least
people ponder how much of the news they should take in
22 in Sunday's double suicide blasts in Tel
and whether listening to it right before bedtime is wise.
Aviv, the worst bombings since the
"In our house, we agreed not to listen to the news past 6
Passover massacre took 29 lives in Netanya
p.m. as I began to believe it was affecting my sleep as well
nine months ago. Thousands more have
as that of our children," says Rappeport, who - has a master's
been hurt or maimed.
degree in early childhood education from Wayne State
Rappeport also has met hundreds of
University in Detroit.
American tourists through her work at the
Beyond that, Israelis worry about how to tell children
Kapell Visitors Center, in the Old City of
the bloodshed. "They know there has been a piguah
Safed, and is proud they've made such "a
(attack), but they understand it differently."
tremendous effort to come and visit Israel
In November, just before three AI Qaida-enlisted suicide
and show their connection to the country."
bombers exploded a car in the lobby of a Kenyan beach-
Israel, she says, isn't going to be driven into the sea, no matter
front hotel favored by Israeli tourists — killing three
how hard Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his believers try
Israelis and 10 Kenyans and injuring 80 others —
"So while we may grieve for our dead and wounded,
Rappeport grappled with her 6-year-old daughter
while we may show our anger in various ways at those who
Margalit's question about whether America also was under
perpetuate and support the attacks, and while we may
struggle to come to terms with the 'whys' and chows' of
this situation, ultimately," she says, "we are strengthened."
Israelis draw from that well of strength to press on, even
Keeping A Balance
as the economy sours, tourism dries up, danger lurks at
Israelis also worry about how to digest a steady diet of hor-
almost every corner and the news is seldom good.
ror and how to show the proper respect and sympathy.
Israelis are obsessed with the news, whether in print,
"For each person killed, and for each person wounded,"
online or broadcast. It's how they keep a finger on the
Rappeport says, "a world is turned upside down
pulse of the Mideast turmoil.
for dozens, if not hundreds, of family, friends
"Every hour on the hour," Rappeport says, "people
slow down to catch the headlines on the radio news —
She wonders how to grieve, "even a bit," for
standing next to shop doors, listening to the bus radio
these victims, but not become "swallowed up
or raising the volume at work for a few minutes."
ourselves in this grief."
As the headlines are read, Rappeport says, listeners
The viciousness of the attacks is heartrending.
typically "hold their breath for a few moments, let-
Even a mother reading a bedtime book to her
ting it out in a sigh, a gasp or a silent breath of
child, a grandmother pushing her grandchild in a
thanks, depending on what they hear."
Lauri e Sendler stroller and a girl celebrating her bat mitzvah
I find myself inspired by the Israeli resilience and
were not immune.
will to not give up.
So emotions run high.
Rappeport was a bat mitzvah at the old
Each time "we read or hear one of these per-
Congregation Beth Moses and is a 1976 Berkley High
Rappeport says, "our eyes well up with tears
School graduate. She grew up in Detroit and Oak Park,
— but how much can we do that?"
embraced by stories about her family's Zionist roots going
Life in Israel, she says, a gritty nation created with such
back to the 1920s. She made aliyah in 1983, nine years after
hope and promise nearly 55 years ago in the shadows of
her first Israel visit as part of a Jewish Community Center
the Holocaust, involves Jewish holidays, Jewish rituals and
trip. She met her American-born husband, Yoni, a carpenter,
interaction with the non-Jews who share the land.
on Kibbutz Hannaton, the first Conservative cooperative
It carries a heavy burden, too. As Rappeport puts it: "It
settlement. They have five children ages 6-17.
involves the search for the answers to ... many ... diffi-
Her tourist work is as a representative of Livnot
U'Lehibanot ("To Build and Be Built"), which provides
One question I have: Precisely what have the Palestinians
Israel experiences for post-college young American Jews, and
gained by way of non-Arab world support from their
Partnership 2000, a Jewish cultural exchange service whose
relentless slaughter of Israeli men, women and children?
twinned communities include Safed and Palm Beach. She
Israel's resolve is still strong against this wartime back-
also coordinates Livnot alumni activities in North America.
drop. But the spirit of Palestinians on the battered streets
Rappeport shared her impressions in a poignant letter
of Ramallah and Gaza City is in shreds. They were better
from Israel made available by the Jewish Federation of
off — in every way — before the intifada.
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