Ronnie Shashoua, a participant on the BINA GAP Mechina year, reflects about how does it feel to get use to Israel unusual reality.
It’s been a long month. We started May off with possibly our most challenging and most rewarding sidra trip, the army sidra. It involved being timed for almost every task and hike and getting woken up two of the three nights for a surprise hike or patrol duty, and it culminated in an independent hike of over 10 kilometers (and a glorious victory nap). Back in Tel Aviv, we quickly threw ourselves into our busiest days of independent maslulim (academic tracks that give us ultimate logistical and content responsibility). My maslul, the week after the army sidra, was heading out on a day trip in Haifa, and a two day trip in Daliyat al-Karmel to speak with and learn about the Druze community.
However, we never got to the second day. The night we were in Daliyat al-Karmel, it was decided that the violence breaking out across the country made it too dangerous to go on the second half of our trip, and the first sirens started sounding in Tel Aviv. We were too far north for any missiles to reach us, but that night was a mess of calls to friends still at the mechina in Tel Aviv and family members in the south and refreshing news apps every few minutes. Although it was certainly helpful to have the support and reassurance of my maslul group, on week two of being away from Tel Aviv, I was jealous of the people in my group who were sleeping in the familiarity of our apartment that night, even crammed into the bomb shelters as they were. This feeling only increased the next morning when we were informed that we were being sent home to family or friends in Israel so that we wouldn’t have to go through classes and activities with the threat of missiles hanging over our heads. I spent a week with my mom, who was visiting that month, before we were informed on Tuesday that the mechina had arranged for us to continue our activities as normally as possible at a mechina up north. As the person closest to Tel Aviv, I volunteered to go to our apartment Tuesday night to gather necessities for this trip for our group.
Stepping into my apartment, I immediately started breathing easier. Having a home base, a place that is wholly ours, is something that many of us take for granted. Despite the comfort of our accomodation in the north in comparison to the bedrolls and open air sleeping arrangement of the army sidra, it wasn’t like being at my apartment, with my room, with my pictures up, with my clothes folded messily in the closet, with my roommate’s shoes scattered on the rug she got us for Chanukkah. Even the time I spent at my mom’s temporary but homey apartment, though I did have a room and a bed and some shelves there, wasn’t like my space at the BINA apartments. There was no friendly neighbor’s cat hanging out in our yard, and the walls weren’t covered with silly drawings from various activities and old birthday decorations, and the apartment wasn’t filled with the noises of people chatting on the balcony or singing in the shower or watching a movie on the couch.
Our apartment at Ben Asher, over these long months, has become home. It carries the good and the scary memories from this year, the dance parties and the fights over who gets to shower first, the group dinners and the arguments over cleaning them up, and all the love and the growing pains that my group has experienced this year. With the end date of the program quickly approaching, I’m realizing how grateful I am for all the moments that make up our home and our lives together, and just how much I’m going to miss it when I leave on June 15.