Smile Through the Fear – A Trip to the South of Israel

On my trip to the south, we visited a kibbutz called Ein Hashlosha which is about a mile and a half from the Gaza border. This community experiences rockets weekly, but this is an improvement. At one point, I learned, they were being attacked up to six times a day. Like the playground discussed in my last post, safe houses are within a 15-second sprint from any point where one might be standing on this kibbutz.

In May, before the school day began, the sirens went off and everyone sought shelter. The rocket happened to hit directly next to the elementary school in the community. Everyone was safe, but that might’ve not been the case had it been shot 10 minutes later when school was supposed to start.

Our tour guide told us he has four young kids. When asked what he tells his kids who have to grow up in this reality, he said he’s realistic yet hopeful with them. He tells them there is no reason to live in complete fear or stop living your life, or else Hamas – explained in my Gymboree post – wins. He also tells them that he hopes there will come a time when their days and nights won’t be interrupted by sirens and screams.

One thing I was extremely surprised and impressed to hear was their outlook on mental health. In a place flooded with fear of attack, PTSD is prevalent more than ever. I’ve heard from people in the States who say “mental health isn’t recognized in Israel” and yesterday I learned that is completely false.

At this man’s son’s school, they meditate and practice mindfulness after every attack. They are sent to therapy to learn to cope with their reality. Elementary school children have to deal with this along with which sport to play or which friend to have a sleepover with. The tour guide told us how proud he is of his children. He is at ease, as much as possible, to know they are growing up resilient and thankful for all life has to offer.

Another obstacle they face at Ein Hashlosha are the balloons that set their land ablaze. This kibbutz in particular grows their own crops and cows for milk. When these balloons set their land on fire it doesn’t just mean destruction of land; it means destruction of food for the entire community. While visiting, we saw a few IDF – Israeli Defense Force – trucks drive up with big red water tanks to put out fires. There have been dozens within the past few days.

This entire experience really made me put things into perspective within my own life. These children are brought up in a war zone because of a terrorist group. Walking around the kibbutz, buildings are disrupted by holes that have yet to be patched. Trees split down the middle tell stories of rockets and fear. Fires and smoke cover land used for food and living.

Smiling faces also enlighten buildings and porches. Families and friends gather around these trees to talk and bond. Children run around the fields playing and screeching with laughter. Despite the state of war that these people live in, they are happy. Yes, they would rather not live this way. They pray for peace, but they don’t stop living their lives until this dream happens.

I challenge you, no matter where you’re reading this, to stop and think. Make a mental (or psychical) list of your grandest worries right now. How much are they truly affecting your life? If these worries are affecting your day-to-day life, cut them out. Whatever it is, it’s likely not more important than living your life to the fullest.

We need to stop stressing the little things in life. We need to say yes to things we would normally say no to out of fear. Like coming to a foreign country for the summer! If I had said no out of fear, I would be a completely different person than the one I have grown into here. The one I am proudest of.

If you’re going to take anything from this post, take this: It could always be worse. Live your life to the fullest because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

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Zoe Zbar

My name is Zoe and I'm a 22-year-old student at the University of South Florida. Join me as I document my journey through life. I'll write the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the funny, the sad, and everything in between. Don't be afraid to let me know what you think. Enjoy!

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