By: Bat-Tzion Atik  | 

My Name Means More to Me Than Ever Before

My full Hebrew name is Miryam Bat-Tzion. My first name, Miryam, comes from my great-grandmother, Miryam Bryna. My mother found the name Bat Tzion in a book and felt it would be perfect for her first daughter. My entire life, I went by Bat-Tzion. Sometimes it’s inconvenient to go by my middle name, but I didn’t realize the true meaning of the name I carry until this past January. 

I was privileged to grow up in a home where we didn’t consider home to be the house in which we lived. In my family, Israel is home, plain and simple. 

The first time I went to Israel was for my bat mitzvah, when I spent winter break there with my grandparents. We visited different parts of the country and met family who I had only seen in pictures. It was so special to finally connect with the land that I had spent so many years learning about in school. As this was a trip in honor of my bat mitzvah, one of the gifts that I received was a necklace with my name, מרים בת-ציון, on it. At the time, it was just a pretty necklace that said my name and the actual necklace itself meant more to me than the name it held. When I left Israel that first time, I was so heartbroken, not knowing the next time I would be in Israel. 

The next time I went to Israel was for my year in seminary. I learned, I grew, I explored all different parts of the land, experienced the chagim in Eretz Yisrael, and got to know my family in Israel on an even deeper level. When I was going back to America, I was once again heartbroken to be leaving the land to which I had grown so connected. I cried, not knowing the next time I would be in Israel. Right before I boarded my plane, I received a text from my mother saying “As you cry, daven that Hashem should bring us all Home ASAP. You’re a true Bat-Tzion.” It was at that moment that I began to understand the significance of the name I carry. It wasn’t just a name that my parents thought was pretty. It had a meaning. It was the hope and wish that they had for me as their daughter, that I would share that same passion for Eretz Yisroel that they had raised me with. At that moment, I felt like a true Bat-Tzion. 

Over time, I grew accustomed to living in America again. I felt really content with my coffee creamer, my family nearby and whatever perks there are to living a typical Jewish-American life. I had my routine and life felt normal. When the war broke out, it barely affected my daily life. I had to do school, take my tests and write my papers. There wasn’t any other choice. Life didn’t stop here because there was a war there. 

The third time I went to Israel was with the Yeshiva University Sacks-Center Solidarity Mission to Israel this winter break. I spent my time there with 35 other Yeshiva University students from all different backgrounds who went to volunteer and bring chizuk and love to the people in Israel. 

On the first day of our trip, we went to Ohr Layerek farm to pick beets and our group picked 3000 pounds of beets. We then went to Carmei Gat where we made a carnival for children of fathers in miluim [army reserves] and held workshops for the wives, to give them a break. The past few months in America, I’ve felt so guilty. There are people my age going into Gaza to fight on behalf of Am Yisrael while I go about my normal American life where the most I can do is be in contact with my elected officials. This first day of the trip, it felt so good to be in Israel and do something physically active to help. 

We spent the second day of our trip bearing witness to the tragedies of October 7th. We went to places like Kfar Aza, Sderot, and Kissufim which were all brutally destroyed on October 7th. Communities that were once thriving, were destroyed in a matter of hours. Being an American student at this time has presented its fair share of challenges, one of which being the disconnect that I felt living so far away from the war. Seeing it with my own eyes allowed me to actually understand what is happening in Israel and to feel that connection I so desperately yearned for. 

Over the trip, we heard from various speakers who are currently doing all that they can to contribute to the war effort with things like Chessed, medical assistance, and advocacy, whose main message was to take all of the things that we witnessed in Israel and to bring it back and share it with others. One of these speakers was President Ari Berman who shared with us his experience of fighting for American university students in America while his son was fighting on the front lines of the war. The main message of our trip was that our work didn’t end when we boarded the plane, but rather began when we landed back in America.  

As I was preparing to leave for America, I once again felt a pang in my heart and a pit in my stomach. I walked down the ramp in Ben-Gurion airport with the pictures of the hostages looking directly at me and I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart in Israel. As I walked through the airport in tears, I realized where this feeling was coming from. I’m a Bat-Tzion. That’s who I am. My love and passion for Eretz Yisroel wasn’t just something that my parents raised me with but has become so ingrained in who I am. It’s the name I carry. 

Over this trip, we worked the land, we bore witness, we volunteered with those in need and brought simcha back from where it was stolen. But through all of these experiences, I truly learned what it means to be proud of the name I carry.


Photo Caption: At the Kotel

Photo Credit: Zehava Shatzkes