Julie Rothschild Levi
A few years ago, a friend and I were browsing around a home-goods store. A mattress protector in the bedding department caught my friend’s eye, and knowing that I’m a sucker for typos in English—which are entertainingly rampant in Israel—she showed me the packaging. Underneath the photo of a beaming family of four, the text read: “Protects you from your own mattress.”
Great, I thought. We’re not only in need of protection from terrorists here; turns out our very own mattresses are after us too.
As a comic actress and content creator, my way of dealing with the stresses of living in this country is through humour, which I look for in every nook and cranny, typo and translation blunder.
You don’t need me to tell you there’s nothing funny about the constant terrorist threat we live under in Israel. But that’s precisely why we need to lighten up. Humour helps us escape from the bitter pill of war, if only for a few minutes.
Back when I was a medical clown, I searched for ways I could help my fellow Jews during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 (aside from saying some extra prayers and putting a few more coins in the pushka, that is). The idea hit me like a Kassam. As a clown, I was specifically trained to aim a missile of light into hospital wards, battered women’s shelters and nursing homes. If there was ever a situation that warranted clowning around, that war would be it. Other medical clowns all over Israel did the same.
I’m often asked by friends and family in the US if I’m afraid to live here. You see, I’m the only one in my family who lives in Israel and became religious.
My consistent answer is no.
I’ll be honest: this wasn’t always the case. When I lived in Jerusalem in the mid-1990s, there was a spate of suicide bombings in restaurants, on buses and in traffic intersections. I was this girl from Minnesota, where the scariest thing I knew of was a tornado warning.
One day at work in Jerusalem, one of the cleaners didn’t show up. It turns out he was blown up on a bus. After the funeral, in the car on the way back to the office, the radio announced there had been another terrorist attack.
I broke down in the car, my colleagues occupying the other seats. “I didn’t grow up here,” I sobbed. “I don’t know how to handle all this.” My boss, a female, took my hand and held it. There was nothing to say.
After I got married, my husband and I moved to the US. I was so relieved I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of going out for a bite to eat. It was a needed mental break for me.
We’ve been back in Israel for over 10 years now, and while suicide bombings are a thing of the past (baruch Hashem), we have a different reality to live with – often scary, and just as unpredictable as well. Regardless, I do feel safest in my adopted homeland. I love living here and raising my family in this crazy and amazing place. It’s not always easy, but it’s become home. Being here makes me happy, despite the challenges.
Mitzvah gedolah lihyot b’simchah – It’s a great mitzvah to be happy. Running for cover during a siren is not a simchah-inducing act, and buying my teenage daughter pepper spray for the times she meets up with friends in Jerusalem is certainly no joke, yet Hashem gave us the tools to bring joy to the world. A kind word, a smile and a laugh are healing. They don’t only to each of our own individual souls; they’re the best salve for our collective one as well.
May this summer be a quiet and fun one for all of Am Yisrael, and may the only thing we fear be our mattresses!
Julie Rothschild Levi
Julie Rothschild Levi can be found on Instagram and Facebook @officiallyjulie.
She lives with her family in Rehovot, Israel, and aside from her comedy is a writer, editor and wig hoarder.