Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amsterdamse Bos

Here I am writing from just outside Amsterdam, in a small town surrounded by forest, rivers and marshy canals. I'm staying in a "camping" resort, which essentially means that our room is a self-standing cabin structure with its own bathroom, kitchen, sitting room, television, and wide array of Ikea-manufactured furniture. I prepared lunch with the windows open to temper the heat from the stove with the cool, moist air from outside. As I write, I'm surrounded by the sumptuous smells of fried onions and wet grass. A choral of birds is my background music, the songs occasionally muffled by the roar of an airplane flying overhead. The campground is not far from the airport.

I'm in the Netherlands because my husband is on the Israel National Lacrosse team, and the European championships are taking place this week. So far they're just starting with scrimmages against the teams that they will play when the tournament officially starts tomorrow. Yesterday was the Netherlands, today is Ireland. The team is made up of a mix of American-born olim chadashim and Israelis who are now living in the US. After this tournament, the team returns to the US to spend the summer introducing the sport to students across Israel through training sessions and clinics.

As an observer, watching the Israel lacrosse team play makes me feel more patriotic than I felt at the height of my aliyah process. Seeing the team cheer "Am Yisrael Chai" before games, admiring their myriad of Zionist and Jewish tattoos, hearing them yell to one another on the field in Hebrew, and watching them stand up bravely against the gargantuan, aggressive players on teams like the Netherlands.

The most amazing part of all of this is that here in the Netherlands the Israel team will parade in their striking blue and white uniforms with pride for the next ten days, and they will do extremely well in this tournament. The Netherlands gave up more of their Jewish population to the Nazis during the Holocaust than any other nation in Europe. Only one in sixteen Jews survived. Here we are again, and now with our own country to represent and to return safely to.

This trip reminds me of why I made aliyah in the first place, and it reminds me how lucky I am to live in such a special country.

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