Yael Mark is one of Boston-Haifa Connection’s 2015-2016 Shinshinim Young Ambassadors from Israel. Yael grew up in Haifa and graduated in 2015 from the Leo Baeck High School. She is spending a year of service living and volunteering in the Greater Boston community before returning to Israel in June to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

At first I didn’t think this could be an actual topic for a blog post. However, the expressions of all the people I have said this sentence to was enough. Yes, I do feel safer in Israel.

How come? Well, in Israel I wake up in the morning knowing that my name, Yael, is one of the most common names in Israel. It’s a name I can shout and scream and say proudly when I am walking in the street or when I am ordering coffee. As opposed to here in the US, where I need to think twice before I say my name, given that it sounds Israeli. Given that it’s not that hard to understand that I am an Israeli. And a proud one.

Moreover, when you are in Israel, it is knowing the fact that before you enter an event, a mall or a train station someone will check your belongings. It not the fact that a guard will check your belongings that makes it feel safe; it’s the fact that they check everyone. That’s how you know you are entering a safe place.

I have been here for several months already and have bumped in to some situations where I accidently opened the trunk of my car as I entered a parking lot, when I searched for a guard at the entrance to the Natick mall, and afterwards I realized that I am the only one looking.

On New Year’s Eve, Sapir (the other Shinshin Young Ambassador in Boston) and I went to see the fireworks in Boston. Sapir stopped for a second and said to me “I don’t understand, there are so many people here, and no guards to check bags… do people here feel safe?”

At first, I answered quickly “well, they don’t need guards here”. But in a way, it did suddenly scare me to be around so many people without knowing their intentions.

Have I lost trust in people because I am an Israeli? Am I paranoid because I am Israeli? But then again, isn’t it good to feel safe? In a world like ours, where unfortunately the number of acts of terror and terror threats are increasing, can someone blame me for being paranoid? I guess not.

However, I do want to emphasize something. I am glad that I am feeling safe in my home country, it says a lot about Israel. Despite that, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable saying my name abroad anymore. I don’t want to feel “safer” in Israel, I want to feel safe everywhere in the world and still be a proud Israeli. I want Israel to be seen in a bright light, because we’ve existed 67 years, and we are an amazing country, a startup nation. I want people to see Israel beyond the conflict, because there is so much to know, to explore, and to be proud of about Israel.

I hope that in my shanat sherut (year of service), I am helping to change the image of Israel here in Boston. I know there are 98 shinshinim this year all over the world doing the same magnificent work in order to make this change. I hope that one day, I can be proud walking around with a shirt with Hebrew writing on it everywhere that I want to.

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