Tuesday night, after coming home from a fabulous dinner with visiting American friends, I started getting ready for bed at the ulpan. No sooner had I taken off my shoes than I heard the familiar, but recently unheard shrill rocket alarm outside.) My actual internal monologue: "Jords! (I call myself Jords) Is that the siren? No way! What is this, July 15?! Jerusalem hasn't been targeted in weeks! I was just telling my friends today 'see? Good thing you didn't cancel your trip here! look how safe it is! The worst is behind us!' I hope they don't blame me for this! Where are my shoes? Where is the miklat (shelter)?! Let me just follow the stampede downstairs."
So I raced downstairs with the 160 other internal students in my ulpan, in various stages of undress (towels, robes, pajamas and the like) and waited for the all-clear. There was a lot of nervous tension in that miklat, people making jokes about turning this into a shelter rave, taking #bombshelterselfies and such. There were also those of us trying and struggling to watch the Israeli news (the highest-level class doing what I thought was a pretty solid job of translating for the less advanced students) and all of us comparing how many shelter experiences we had under our collective belts ("This is your first?! I've had 5 already!") It is true that a harrowing experience bonds people; I got to know people in those moments that I hadn't really spoken to until that point.
We all waited the requisite time and headed back to our rooms, slightly shaken (not stirred) but I did notice something great. None of us said one word about this whole aliyah thing being a mistake, or going back to the safety of our birth countries. We were all truly firm in our resolve that we were now Israelis, this is our country, and we are all in this together. It was really special to be in a room full of people who felt as I do- that regardless of the hard times here (and this summer has truly been tough emotionally), there is no place else we'd rather be. Am Yisrael Chai.