Masa Israel is highlighting the voices of our participants and alumni who are in Israel during Operation Protective Edge to give an authentic look at what it’s like to live and work in the country at this time. This account is from Brian Burchman, a current participant of Israel Way - Tel Aviv Internship Experience.
Since I went on Birthright last summer, I knew I wanted to come back to Israel. Through Masa Israel Journey, I was able to obtain an internship in Tel Aviv. For the first several months of the program, Israel was exactly the same as last year; beautiful, fun and relaxed.
However, today is definitely not the same as several weeks ago. I was not prepared for the current state of Israel between the kidnappings, rocket sirens and the Iron Dome. To say it was a culture shock the first time I heard the siren would be an understatement. I’ll admit, coming from the United States and having no military background, let alone experience with guns, the thought of rockets being fired towards you is obviously a bit alarming. With today’s news outlets, it is tough to find an unbiased news source back home, thus I could not grasp the current situation. With every source showing pictures of death, it just created anxiety for my family back home. Ultimately, this created a veil of ambiguity, as I did not fully see nor understand the situation. At first, all I had was my basic instinct, which was to hope for the best and be prepared for the worse.
As the conflict has progressed, I spoke with others who have gone through this adjustment stage and whom I trust, such as my hockey friends (former IDF officers). This really helped to calm me down as I could get an Israeli perspective of the situation. Having people you can rely upon for news and their past experiences helped me create a better picture of the current situation, thus allowing me to think and react in a more calculated and reasonable manner. Further, by listening as well as seeing how others (both members of my program and Israelis) react during these alarms gives me confidence that I will eventually be as calm and clear headed as they are during these unsettling times.
As I continue to go to work, I still see the same amount of people in the streets, on the buses and even in the workplace. It is actually tough to tell that Israel is in a conflict because Tel Aviv looks just as busy today as it did when I arrived. Looking back on the first alarm I was upset as I did not know what to expect, but now I understand the situation better. Each time the sirens go off, I become a little more level-headed and a little less anxious. I call my parents and assure them I’m okay. When you boil it down, as long as you are smart and do not panic, you will be better prepared to deal with the unknown. It is a learning curve and just like anything new, it takes time to adjust. I only hope things can return to normal…whatever that really means today!