Reflections of a Recent Oleh on Yom Ha’atzmaut

Categories: Israel

Shawn Guttman sat on the Ameinu Board of Directors for two years while he was National Director of Habonim Dror North America. Today, he is a member of an educator’s collective that is affiliated with the Dror Israel movement, one of Ameinu’s strategic partners in Israel.

I’ve often wondered whether there was an actual watershed moment from which I can trace my decision to make Aliyah. It’s one of those fun little exercises that I occasionally find myself doing riding the train into Manhattan or, these days, traveling into Tel Aviv. You know, when your book just isn’t grabbing your attention and you’re in a mood to be existential. Was it my Bar Mitzvah trip to Israel when I first discovered the country outside of my grandparents’ backyard? Or the summer I spent in Israel with Habonim Dror when I discovered a country outside of my family? Perhaps it was the time I led a group of 16 year olds around the country and felt the joy in using an experience in Israel to educate and empower youth. There was also that moment in University when it struck me that the issue I cared about most in the world was Israel. Of course it could also have been when I was Mazkir Klali (National Director) of Habonim Dror North America and I realized after all the years of educating about Zionism and hagshama (doing what you believe in) that it was finally time to put to the test whether I really believed in all that I had been saying.
All of these moments – and the others that I’m sure would come to mind if my bus ride was longer – have been incredibly powerful and helped shaped the person I am today and why I now live in Israel. But I’ve come to believe that all of these pale in comparison to one moment, one realization: in making Aliyah I had partners. I made Aliyah because I wanted to change the world. How was I going to do that? I could change the world by taking responsibility over something that I was more passionate about than anything else: Israel and the Jewish People. As anyone who has faced a daunting task knows, when you face it alone it can easily overwhelm you. When you have partners facing it with you the burden doesn’t lessen, but becomes shared and suddenly seems manageable.

You can be one of Shawn’s partners by supporting Ameinu!
From the beginning this idea of partnership has been understood by the Zionist movement. The seemingly insurmountable task of repairing the Jewish People after 2000 years of exile or of creating a Jewish State or of establishing it based on a vision of justice and democracy AND maintaining that visionall of these challenges and the myriad of others can only be understood as achievable within the context of partnership.

Today I am not alone in attempting to accomplish these things; I have partners in my urban kibbutz, in the three other urban kibbutzim of Kvutsot AM, in my friends and colleagues from the Dror Israel movement, in those who stood up for change this past summer in the social protests and in organizations such as Ameinu whose members continue to fight for a progressive vision of Israel. As Yom Ha’atzmaut arrives we should remember that our work in Israel is far from over. Yet no matter how daunting, insurmountable or (insert another scary adjective here), the task of maintaining Israel as a just and democratic Jewish State seems, remember that you are not alone. We’re in this together. Just as our Zionist forefathers and mothers believed, it’s the only way we can make this work.

Ameinu supports the work for social justice in Israel and in building the Israeli civil institutions and culture that actualizes these values. Please celebrate the independence of the Israel you believe in by joining Shawn, his kibbutz and his larger movement as they fight for social justice. You can tell Shawn you are his partner by giving to Ameinu’s Yom Hatzmaut campaign today.

About Shawn Guttman

Shawn Guttman made Aliyah in 2010 and lives in an educators’ collective in Givat Olga, part of The Cooperative of Educational Collectives of Olim from Habonim Dror. He is an educator and program coordinator for Hechalutz, a cooperatively run education center for Diaspora Jews visiting Israel. Hechalutz’s staff of olim and sabras seek to make change in Israeli society using education as our tool to do so.
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