Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What Israel Means To Me

This post is going to be slightly disjointed because I'm writing it while feeling all worked up and emotional. I was just watching the live feed of a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight land in Israel and the greeting and ceremony afterward and it really made me cry.

To me, Israel is not just a Jewish country and it's not just a theoretical homeland. It's an actual future home. I'm going to live there. I don't know when, but I know it will happen - hopefully sooner rather than later. I struggle all the time with making sure I still feel passionate enough to want to live there and with figuring myself out so that I can become emotionally and mentally ready for such a big change in my life. Already, most of my friends have made Aliyah and those who haven't are doing so very soon (one in the next couple of weeks, one in January - and that's not including the ones who don't have dates yet but are planning on making Aliyah soon anyway).

I've worked hard and gone through a lot of doubt, emotional turmoil, and general re-assessing in order to make Aliyah truly my own dream. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl for no other simple reasons than 1. my best friend had done it with her family (there are actually a whole number of families who have made/are making Aliyah from my community) and 2. Israel, to me as a six year old, was a magical place for Jews where a lot of things in the Torah happened and I felt that if I was there, everything would be okay because it was Eretz Yisrael. Since the summer I was nine until the summer after Israel I went to Camp Moshava, both as a camper (chanicha) and as a counselor (madricha). As much as I felt I was being a little brainwashed by Moshava, it was a wonderful, wonderful place to grow up in. It was rich with Jewish and Zionistic values and the heads of the camp really made it a priority to make sure that everyone at camp behaved appropriately and with respect towards one another. "Dugma ishit" or "Ishiut l'dugma" (being a role model, essentially) was a value stressed over and over and over to the Moshava staff. And - okay - I'm not going to go on and on about how amazing Moshava is. It, of course, has its issues and that's one of the reasons I decided not to go back and I ended up dropping out of Bnei Akiva (even though I don't think you can ever really drop out). But overall, it was an exceptionally positive experience, especially when I was younger.

Maybe one day I'll write a post about Moshava specifically. But as for now, the point is, I ended up feeling a little brainwashed. When I went to Harova for my year in Israel, I felt even more brainwashed. Because of all the brainwashing, I started to freak out a little about how I was unable to discern what I was being told I wanted and what I really wanted. I didn't want to make Aliyah because I was told to. I wanted to do it because I wanted to. I wanted it to come from me, not from ideas put into my head by other people. And I didn't want it to seem like I was only making Aliyah because it was "the thing to do" - because all my friends were doing it and that's just what one did if she went to Moshava and did bnei akiva and had all these Zionistic friends. I needed to convert this general dream into a dream I felt was truly my own. I had to make it mine.

Eventually, I did succeed at this. In a weird way, I feel a very strong, personal connection with Israel that has nothing to do with Moshava, nothing to do with Bnei Akiva, nothing to do with Harova, and nothing to do with my friends.

Well, okay, I'm sure it has a bit to do with all of those, but mostly it's because I worked hard to create a bond with the country that is my own personal bond. It's hard to explain it. The simplest way to describe it is...Israel makes me feel more complete as a Jew. I look at Israel and I feel G-d's existence in a way that I don't elsewhere. Having a relationship with G-d is so difficult, especially because He is not physical. Prayer is one way of connecting, but words are fleeting. You can't hold onto them the same way you can pick up a rock from the Jerusalem streets and grasp it tightly, or scoop up Israeli dirt and let it sift through your fingers. Israel, in a way, is something physical in which I can feel the presence of G-d and can realize all He has done for us and for the world.

And the history! The history that is in those rocks, the dirt, the sand, the trees, the streets, the air...layers upon layers upon layers of Jewish history! The atmosphere is so thick with it, I can feel it hugging me, warmly welcoming me, drawing me closer to my past, my ancestors, my heritage. I get enveloped by all the heroism that decorates our time-line, the bravery, the pride, the honor, the stubborn will to stand by our beliefs even under great stress.

As long as we have Israel, I feel comforted that redemption is not too far away. I feel in tune with my own identity as part of the great Jewish nation.

And, by the way, I definitely don't exclude America as a big, important part of my life, either. I'm an American and I'm proud of it. I'm not going to put down America just because I believe all Jews belong in Israel. It always really bothers me when people do that. America has done so much for us and has let us practice Judaism pretty freely, especially when you consider our history in other countries. We owe it tremendous hakarat hatov and anyone who says differently is deluding themselves.

I'm American and proud of it. I'm a Jew and incredibly proud of it. And one day I'll be an Israeli, too. I can't wait for that day to come. I'm waiting with baited breath. I'm at the edge of my seat.

Israel, sunny Israel, beautiful Israel, warm, loving country who has sooooo many issues...and yet I ache for it all the same...

One day, it'll be my turn.


~ Sarah ~ said...

nice post - you wrote from the heart.

(and yay for Harova girls! i guess they didn't brainwash me enough :( or else i'd have made aliya already like most of my friends.)

Frayda said...

Beautiful post!

Ezzie said...

Beautiful post. :)

Moshe said...