This article was written for the 2009 Why Be Jewish Gathering: Renaissance in a Time of Ration, a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundationâ€™s Bronfman Vision Forum.
There is an English phrase – “Your home is your castle.” There may be war outside, but at least in your home and in your bed you can feel safe. This phrase has not been true near the Gaza border for the last 8 years. Think about putting your child to sleep when you know that at any second a missile or a mortar can fall from the sky. It’s horrifying even to think about that. Now try to imagine that this has been our daily reality in S’derot and the Western Negev for the past few years.
Living this reality, the directors of Hillel Israel gave me the great privilege of opening a Hillel center at Sapir College, which is located next to S’derot.Â My mission, like that of every other Hillel director in the world, was to build a community of young people who are imbued with inspiration and vision, who will take a meaningful part in shaping Jewish life around them by influencing ever-increasing spheres of people, in Israel and, eventually, the world.
I took on this mission in a region that has been in a constant state of emergency. This is an area where people didn’t usually talk about concepts like inspiration, but rather about survival. And when you think only about survival, you’re going to invest in building another shelter â€“ a large one underground, a small one above-ground â€“ and pour quantities of fortified cement and steel into schools and kindergartens. Our communities, which used to be known for their greenery and open spaces, are now covered with great strips of reinforced cement.
Don’t misunderstand me â€“ the cement and steel are vital for saving our lives. A neighbor of mine, who was killed when he couldn’t find cover quickly enough during an attack on our Kibbutz, and my sister’s destroyed house, are both silent testimonies to this threat. While these reinforcements do save lives, concrete and steel do not build a future. It is people who build the future. But people who have no dreams will never build anything. The serious threat of a crisis situation is not just the physical or economic danger, but also the danger to our ability to dream. People with no dreams or vision will see only the cement and the steel in front of their eyes.