Brooke Perlman '19
פֶּרְסְפֶּקְטִיבָה (peressepeqetivah) Perspective. That was the word repeated over and over to us during my recent trip, and since then I have thought a lot about its meaning. You really don’t know what you have until you see what others don’t. We don’t have to have bomb shelters in our homes, we don’t have to build underground playgrounds just so children can safely play, we have nice fields and even indoor facilities for when it rains, and we have the resources to play lacrosse – safely – every single day.
Over winter break, I traveled to Israel for ten days as part of a service trip with Israel Lacrosse. I was one of a group of 40 Jewish American high school lacrosse players who were there to teach Israeli children the sport that we all love. For me, this trip was both about lacrosse and continuing my journey as a Jew. Making the trip to Israel is a mitzvah, which is a commandment in the Torah. An easier way to describe it would be calling it a good deed, but it’s not quite that simplistic. It is an honor, and one that most try to fulfill multiple times in their life. I have always felt that pull to return to Israel, the land promised to me and those who came before me. I had been when I was 11 years old, but at 18, I was at an age where I could really appreciate the experience.
When I was in Israel, I led clinics for children who only spoke Hebrew and who had never held a lacrosse stick before. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was most definitely not expecting the children to be more enthusiastic about lacrosse than I was. After all, this sport has taught me so much and created so many opportunities for me, like this trip. These kids had just learned that lacrosse was even a sport. Most of them could not catch a ball, but they wanted to keep trying. And we were teaching them on concrete with foam balls, girls with boys sticks, and a huge language barrier between us.
I don’t think it struck me how special this was until when we went to a city called Sderot. Throughout Israel, a siren goes off whenever a missile has been detected by the Iron Dome, which is Israel’s missile defense system. Each city has a designated amount of time that it takes from when the siren goes off to when the missile lands and explodes. During that time each person drops everything and runs to the nearest bomb shelter. Israeli law requires a bomb shelter in every house and almost every building. In Sderot, the people have 15 seconds. 15 seconds. Think about that. What can you really do in 15 seconds? How far away could you be from the nearest bomb shelter to safely make it there in time?
You could see the fear on everyone’s faces. We were in a city right next to the Gaza Strip, currently on the street unprotected, and would only have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter if a siren were to go off, which is a highly likely scenario. Just a month and a half before our trip, about 370 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel, and only 100 were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
That moment on the street is when my perspective changed. These kids live with that fear that we felt in that moment every single day of their lives. When someone from our group asked a local citizen if they have practice drills, he said, “There is really no need. Everyone has lived through it and knows what to do. Kids know not to run to their mothers when they hear the siren, but to the nearest bomb shelter.” Lacrosse for these kids wasn’t just a fun sport to play; it was a distraction. It was a way to forget, even if for a small amount of time, that they are constantly under attack.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell they were scared by looking at them. If anything, I had never seen kids more focused and eager to learn a sport in my life. Now, when I pick up my stick, I think of those kids and about how for that one hour or two, I was able to make their day just a little bit better. It is because of them that I plan to return to Israel as soon and as often as I can. I also plan to make Aliyah, which is the process of becoming an Israeli citizen, as soon as I finish college. I, unfortunately, can’t do anything right now that would stop those kids from living in fear every day. However, I can share their story and hope that one day they can play lacrosse in peace.
Brooke Perlman ’19 is a boarder from Princeton, N.J.