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Photo: AP
'I am leaving the sparkles of Las Vegas...'
Photo: AP
'I am going to the place where the truth hurts, but where at least, it exists'
Photo: Eliad Levy
Las Vegas girl gambles on Israel
'When rockets whistle by above me and children sit around relaxed next to me, I understand that this is how I want to be, Israeli.' Tania Didio, 18, explains why she left sparkling Las Vegas to enlist in IDF and live in country she loves – under fire
“You have to see the Nevada desert at dusk between darkness and light. There is something in the desolateness of the US that is very close to Mother Earth, perhaps even in a religious sense. A sleepy breeze, reminiscent of a mother’s caress; sand that enwraps the soles of your feet, mixing your senses so that you’re not sure whether you’re lying down or standing up; and quiet noise.

 

"I don’t know if you’ve ever heard quite noise, but it’s something the likes of which even the biggest scientists wouldn’t succeed in synthesizing the exact replica. Maybe intellectuals, writers, or artists could capture it, but definitely not scientists. It’s a kind of sense that has no equal. Something godly. The perfect setting.”

 

With this description I tried two days ago to mesmerize a few of the children from Kibbutz Magen, which is part of the Eshkol Regional Council – when rockets started to fly above me – in English and broken Hebrew which is almost non existant, and with the help of a few strong Israeli mothers, who reminded me of swamp dryers – those in HaHula, not in Florida.

 

As my speaking became incensed, I realized suddenly that they were all calm. The same cute children. Calm and smiling. And me? I was the hysterical one. Like a music teacher with a triangle trying to introduce an ear for music to Beethoven. Not in the same league though.

 

They are so trained. So Israeli. So smart. They know nothing but they know it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Americans who come to Israel with a knife between the teeth and who discover all of a sudden how Israel is basically the progressive evolution of the world.

 

I also stand here waiting in lines, travel on wild roads, and count change every time I buy a falafel. But together with all the drawbacks, there is something here that is simply undescribable, beyond words.

So here, the rockets fly over my head, over children and civillians, like heavy rain – something totally foreign to me and unfamiliar. Of course, something incomprehensible. I want on the one hand to hide under the bed, but in the same Israeli breath, I want to catch them, one by one with my own hands.

 

I see people around the world who accuse the Israelies of being loud, of being a nuissance, of stealing towels from hotels – and yet I see pioneers, innovators, quick witted, understanding and brave people. A society of conscripted civilians. Soldiers. This is how I want to be – this is what I have been searching for. This is something the Nevada desert wind cannot carry.

 

'American Idol' can wait

I came to Israel within the framework of the Lapid organization. It’s an organization that brings thousands of Jewish high school age students to Israel from around the world, mainly from the US, on a range of programs.

 

Lapid’s main mission is to strengthen the connection of the Jewish nation to the land of Israel, to fight the war against assimilation in the Diaspora, and that rude word, Zionism. Yes, Zionism. There is such a thing.

 

After my wonderful Lapid experience, I decided to stay here, with the help of “Garin Tzabar”, of the Tzofim (Israel Scouts) Movement, which prepares young people for Aliyah and accompanies the participants up until their enrollment in the IDF. Another wonderful progam.

 

To be honest, in the beginning, I came to see the Dead Sea, the Kotel, to take photos in Tel Aviv night clubs, to press “Like” on facebook, and then to go back to Nevada. Yesterday, while Qassams were falling over my head, and the children at once understood that they had to calm me, and not the other way around, I smiled a half stolen smile. I’m going to get recruited into the army. I’m going to be an instructor. Preferably in combat. Shell or bullets. American Idol can wait.

 

So what is an American girl to do so far from home? What does a girl with the dazzling lights of Las Vegas in her eyes and the desert wind in her hair, who lives on pure American entertainment and junk food, supposed to do here?

 

I’ll tell you precisely. It’s like the Hebrew line that was told to me recently that goes, “I’d prefer chocolate cake with sugar over crème brulee with ‘sucrazit’ (sweetener)”. I just feel connected by the umbilical cord to this land, to the people, to the great privilege of being here, and to the obligations it entails.

 

My security gamble

I don’t understand how it is that children and young adults have to serve in the army here, whereas I, back in the US, don’t have to. I don’t understand how it’s possible for people to sit back and watch all the “delegitimization of Israel” that goes on on TV today, and continue to stuff another Orio cookie into their potbellies.

 

And just between us, so that no one hears, I’m also unable to comprehend how it’s possible to live under raining missiles and not react. I’ll whisper that I have a feeling that Las Vegas residents wouldn’t be able to handle Qaasam rockets over the rooftop of the Bellagio Hotel.

 

So, as befits a Las Vegas girl, I decided to take a gamble. Needless to say I am practised (and don’t tell anyone, that your 18 is the American 21) – so I take a gamble on my security bet. Therefore, I am enlisting into the army. I am making aliyah. I am leaving the desert winds. I am leaving the sparkles of Las Vegas.

 

I am going to a place where I’ll be saving the lives of my brothers and sisters – far and near – at the age of 18, and I am leaving the country that doesn’t allow one to do anything until the age of 21. And yes, I am going to the place where the truth hurts, but where at least, it exists. Even at the price of giving up on crème brulee with sucrazit.

 

Tania Didio , 18, from Las Vegas, lives in Kibbutz Magen, in the regional municipality of Eshkol. An alumna of 'Lapid', which brings thousands of Jewish high school-age teenagers to Israel from around the world, Tania is a participant in Garin Tzabar, of the Tzofim (Israel Scouts) Movement , which is in partnership with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

 

 

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