Ani Shayach Le’am
On the morning of October 11th, after my usual scroll through Instagram, various news websites and WhatsApp, I decided to finally check Snapchat. Maybe I would see something entertaining enough to take me away from the negativity and sadness consuming me. I scrolled up to look at my “one year ago today” flashback. It turns out that I was at an Ishay Ribo concert that night. I remember it so vividly. Chol Hamoed, the amphitheater in Ashdod beach, and a crowd full of all different kinds of Jewish people, coming together to have fun and enjoy a night of singing and tefilah.
Now, a year later, the country is in an entirely different place. A horrific, unfathomable nightmare is taking place right in front of us.
Shortly after I heard about the tragic attack in Israel, I had to make my way to the subway I was trying to catch. I didn't want to be a wreck on the train, so I decided to push off processing my feelings until I arrived back at my dorm. In an effort not to cry on the train, I opened an Israeli playlist that I curated during my first visit to Israel years ago. The playlist has grown since then, and is now 29 hours and 42 minutes long. The song that started playing was אני שייך לעם (“Ani Shayach Le’am”) by Ishay Ribo. Without understanding the lyrics, it would probably seem like an ordinary upbeat pop song, but it couldn’t be further from that, especially given the context. Through the lyrics, Ribo tells the story of the miraculous and storied Jewish nation. He emphasizes our uniqueness by referring to the fact that we have survived every era, and that no historians or philosophers can understand how. The end of the chorus declares that Hashem is our God.
I can confidently say that there has never been a time in my life where I have ever felt prouder to be a Jew. Even Jews who don’t live in Israel are consumed by emotional stress, and many of us cannot eat or sleep properly because of our identification with our brothers and sisters in Israel. A Jew is a Jew. We are one nation, I belong to this nation and there is no one like us.
I can’t think of any other nation who could put as much light into the world during such a dark time as we are doing now. On top of fighting in a war, chayalim (Israeli soldiers) are making weddings, handing out candy to civilians that line the streets as they drive by in their tanks and thanking them for living in Israel. Reservists are coming from all over to serve, and just the other day, a man at JFK anonymously paid for 250 flight tickets to Israel for them. Hundreds of soldiers are looking to wear tzitzit. Men, women and children of all ages are showing up at shuls and community centers with t-shirts and strings to spend hours tying away. Non-kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv are kashering their kitchens in order to ensure they can serve all soldiers. Challah bakes are happening worldwide, Sefer Tehillim is being completed daily, people are doing mitzvot and the Jewish people are coming together better than ever before.
I am proud to be part of a nation that is a light unto the rest of the world. I am proud to be part of a nation where everyone is family. When one Jew is hurt, all of Klal Yisrael is hurt; similarly, when one Jew does something good, Klal Yisrael starts to follow, and a ripple effect is formed.
It’s no coincidence that I heard this song on my playlist that night. It has been one of the few things that has given me chizuk (encouragement) this past week, and every time I listen to it, I am reminded of what an honor and privilege it is to be a part of the Jewish Nation. Am Yisrael Chai.
Photo Caption: An art piece in a synagogue in Netzer Hazani. The arrows represent the twelve tribes coming together in unity to form Am Israel.
Photo Credit: Chloe Baker