“It’s quieter here than in Johannesburg,” Yael Druckman, 23, tells me. Druckman, who recently made Aliyah with her family and now lives in The Jewish Agency’s Beit Brodetsky Absorption Center in Tel Aviv, studying Hebrew in the Center’s Ulpan. “I came here from South Africa and I can say: Life is better here, even during war time.”
“When my grandmother asked my mother if she wants to send me back to South Africa, I answered that I feel safer here in Israel. I came here as a new immigrant this past March, but I feel as if I’ve lived here for years. I came a month before Ulpan began, lived with friends in Giveat Shmuel, and began my Ulpan program in May 2014. I love that I live with other students and olim; this way we study together and help each other, and in wartime it has been really powerful to be with others going through the same thing.”
How has the war impacted on your life?
In the beginning it was quiet. There were rockets in the south. Someone said that Hamas would target Tel Aviv. We thought to sleep in the bomb shelter, but didn’t think about it again. That night I went to a wedding in Beit Shemesh, and there we heard that there was a siren in Tel Aviv, that everyone is in a bomb shelter and safe.
I was grateful that I wasn’t there, but the whole time at that wedding, I wasn’t calm. Everyone else, all the Israelis there, told me to be calm, “We are used to this already, it becomes just part of life.”
The crazy thing is that these days, a day without sirens in Israel is not a normal day.
What has it done for you, to live like this?
I’ve been here about 4 months, and I feel that because of these sirens, I’ve become a regular Israeli, I’ve become used to this.
How has your perspective changed about Israelis?
I thought they were crazy, but this war made me realize something, made me see Israelis differently. They come together, they are worried for one another. My friend told me that she saw a family running for the bomb shelter and they shouted to her, “Come with us”, though she was a total stranger. It shows something truly rare about this country and this people.