They say a girl never forgets her first love, and I realized this morning as I think about the coming days, that this is true. I fell in love at the age of 13. I didn’t know the meaning of so many things at that age, but I felt a sense of commitment that remains to this day. The object of my desire was the State of Israel. Looking back, I can’t imagine that I understood what life would truly be like to actually live here, but even then, I knew that there was no where else I would want to be, no other land to which I could commit myself and my future.
It took me another twenty years to get here and by that time, I’d met the love of my life and together we had brought three children into the world. Making aliyah, moving to Israel, meant a commitment not only to Israel, but a challenge and a change for my growing family. With one son in the army and another on the edge, I seem to be especially emotional this year. Things that never bothered me, somehow seem more wrong to me now.
I’m emotional in the sense that I find I reject the opinions on both sides of the plain upon which I have chosen to make my life. I object to those who say Zionism is dead and that we live in a post-Zionist era. Zionism is the dream and the reality of the Jewish people making their home in this land. It is alive and well in the thousands who came to live here, last summer, the summer before that, and the many more thousands who are packing even now. Zionism is alive and well in my heart and the hearts of my children, my friends, my community.
I reject those who tried to turn Zionism into something sinister. It is the purest of loves; the simplest of desires. We sought to right a wrong. We accomplished our goal, and now we seek to make this land a haven for our people and even those who would never have thought to come here before life forced them to our land.
While others talk, we opened our doors to the Vietnamese boat people and today to the trickle of Sudanese refugees who risk life and limb to pass through the cruel Egyptian border guards. This is not our battle, this horror in Darfur. At least, it is not a problem of our making and we are no more or less responsible than the international community, and yet I do not see other nations doing the same. We send humanitarian aid around the world; medical care to those in need and all the while, we dream and live in our beautiful country. Zionism is not dead and therefore the age of post-Zionism will simply have to wait, hopefully until the end of time.
I reject those who say that Israel was not created by God, protected by God and not in God’s plans. They are so very quick to take the benefits of our State while they stand and ridicule it. I want to tell them, as one religious Jew to another, as one Torah-observant Jew to another that this attitude shames me. It angers me. I reject this rejection.
You board buses in safety, because my son serves in this army. You go to health clinics supported by this State you reject, you take benefits from the national insurance agency while you so dogmatically talk of God’s laws and God’s will. And lest those in the “post-Zionist” camp snicker and sneer, you shame me as well because you deny why we are in this land and not another, why Israel and not Uganda. Always Israel. Only Israel.
Why can’t some see that there would be no State, if not for the might of the army – and Who gave that might to our army? How can you look at Israel and fail to see the miracles that created it and continue to sustain it. Shame on you for denying the wonders and miracles of God. They are so apparent in every missile that is shot at our country; the ones that land in open fields and buildings or rooms that were evacuated just moments before. They are there in the rockets that fall in the school yard, instead of the school roof.
Where would the Jews of Russia, Syria, Ethiopia, and even France be, if they did not have an Israel to come to? Do you believe that God would want them to continue to live in oppression? Did America or England or the European countries open their doors during the Holocaust and in the years to follow? Only Israel. Always Israel.
A friend sent me an email and put the word chag (holiday) in quotes. “Your ‘chag’” he wrote to me and I am deeply ashamed. He did not mean to hurt and yet the anger is there.
If you live in Israel, Yom Ha’Atzmaut is your independence day, and mine. It is the day God helped us achieve our dream and the day He gave us a secure home so that no Jew remains homeless.
I find it amazing that a young, American 13-year-old could have found the truth so missed by so many while so many others remain so blind. God gave us two great gifts – the land of Israel, and that means the State of Israel too; and the Torah and all the wonders and laws it includes. To reject one is a waste. To hold one in contempt is a shame. To ridicule either is wrong.
Whether you follow the laws of the Torah or not, to deny the great miracles that we see daily is simply…unscientific. By all laws of physics and statistics, it is not reasonable to believe that an enemy could shoot thousands of rockets within a relatively small geographical area and miss so often, harm so few. This is little comfort to those who live in Sderot and Ashkelon, and yet they are among the first to acknowledge the hand of God (they certainly don’t credit the government). Perhaps, as Israel enters its 60th year, it is time for you to open your hearts and minds to the possibility that the place we hold in this world is ours by virtue of a Greater Force. If you recognize this, I would ask you to be tolerant of those of us who choose to acknowledge it by following the laws detailed in the Torah. Do not belittle us our adherence; do not ridicule our choices. Respect us as you wish us to respect you.
Whether you believe in the State of Israel or not, to deny the important and necessary role it plays in saving and securing our people is simply…wrong. By all laws of God, we are commanded to honor the land in which we live and to keep its laws unless they go directly against the Torah. Respect the land and the State we have built here. If you recognize that the Jewish people would be lost without this land, you must honor the State which we have built upon it. I would ask you to be tolerant of those of us who choose to love this land and this State. I would ask you not to belittle our adherence to the days that honor those who fell for this land, and the day upon which it was formally recognized around the world as ours again. Respect us as you wish us to respect you.
And, to the many who share the plain of my existence, I share with you, on Israel’s 60th birthday, a message to my first love. You remain the dream in my heart and the glory our fathers strived to create. Perfect, you are not. But you are ours, and may you always be so – despite those from outside who seek to destroy us and those within our borders who seek to deny you.
At 13, I discovered the greatest of all truths – that the Jewish people cannot survive without Israel and Torah. To live with one is abhorrent; to deny either simply naive.
Happy birthday, Israel – may you go from strength to strength.