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How does an American parent keep Israel alive for her kids? Natalie Blitt blogs for us on Yom HaAtzmaut. 

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about how to make Israel real in the lives of my children. Compared with most North American Jewish children, they have it easy — they’ve been to Israel, they have cousins there, parents who are committed. They attend a fantastic Jewish day school where Israel lives everywhere in the school — not just in the Judaics curriculum but all over the curriculum, and beyond the curriculum in the hallways and the staff and teachers. We have Hebrew books in our home and our kids one day will be fluent. And yet, Israel is still a far-away country.

This summer, we’ll be in Jerusalem for most of the summer and already I’ve found myself talking about it ad nauseum with the kids. If I had my way, they’d eat ice cream for breakfast every morning in Jerusalem so their idea of Israel is ice cream in the morning. It’s a false picture, I know. Even the summer will be false — we’ll be tourists, albeit in a rented apartment. We may buy groceries there, but the appliances and furniture aren’t ours, and we won’t truly be living there. In the real Israel, children don’t eat ice cream in the morning (at least, not most children). In Israel, there is a real life that we aren’t a part of.

I am a believer in telling the truth. But in this case, I’m happy with the subterfuge. Out here in America, far away from the reality of Israel, it’s hard to keep Israel in my children’s hearts and minds. The only thing that really does it, is me. My husband and I keep Israel alive because we talk about it and we share it with our kids. We plan our trips, we read books that take place in Israel, and we try hard, really hard, to help them fall in love.

Because one day, I hope they know the feeling of getting on a plane and feel like they are coming home. One day I hope they know the feeling of hearing the stories of those who lived through 1948 and get tears in their eyes. Last week my 8-year old told me Israel is turning 63 years old this year. He paused. “Grandma’s older than Israel!” he added with wonder. “Yes she is,” I said. And for now I left it there.

This year I am realizing that it’s not about what I say and do, but how I feel and how I share it. The first step in creating connection is being fueled by my passion. Once they get to Israel, they can make their own associations. They can learn that Israel is incredibly complicated, and it’s not always easy. They too will learn that paying bills in Israel is impossible, that traffic is terrible and the class and religious wars are enough to make you weep, never mind the Arab-Israeli conflict. But in order to care about all these things, they need to first fall in love. So I think this summer, it’ll be ice cream in the morning.

No plan to visit Israel any time soon? Check out some of these great resources:

Shalom Sesame: The new series is really fun and includes a ton of Hebrew. The live action sketches take you all over the country, and include views of real life in Israeli cities throughout the country. In addition to holiday-based episodes, the first and last DVD deal with going to, and then leaving, Israel. Many of the videos can be watched online if you can’t watch it on TV or buy the DVDs.

Media Midrash: This website contains great music and film clips about Israel. Used mainly by educators, it’s also a great resource for parents of older children.

Omanoot: A fantastic collection of Israeli art, Omanoot currently has a bunch of Israeli movies and pictures uploaded and will soon also have music and books.

Israel Interactive: Check out the great multimedia presentation about Independence Hall. Hopefully more presentations will be coming soon.