Have you ever been in love?

Do you recall the first time you got butterflies in your stomach merely thinking about that special one? Remember the first time your heart skipped a beat or when you felt that rush of adrenaline because you experienced someone who meant the world to you? Remember the welling in your eyes and growing lump in your throat at the sheer mention of the one that touched every fiber of your being?  How about wanting to give all of you, surrender yourself unconditionally to the one, that very special one, who wants nothing but your loyalty in return?

Now, imagine reliving this feeling every single day of your life!

Eretz Yisrael, you do all of that to many. The warm feeling of your embracing brown earth always welcomes our tired bones. It refreshes them, soothes our hearts and ignites the spark of an ancient covenant signed with the blood of our forefathers. Your green pastures where our ancestors roamed call us to roll in them. Your flowing milk and honey are the elixir of our being, the fountain of eternal youth which revives our ancient, wandering souls

The Spirit of G-d that always hovers over you cloaks our essence. The silent melodious prayers of Jacob’s angels please our soul’s ears.

There are days when we fight. There are moments when we doubt each other. There are occasions when we don’t speak to one another and there are dreary days and years of long, forced absences that separate us.  Even during those times, however, our hearts never left you.  They plead with you from the niches of the Kotel, they echo from the highest mountains and the deepest valleys asking you to remember us, to pray for us and to bless us. They repeatedly vow:

“If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my greatest joy.”

אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני תדבק לשוני לחיכי אם לא אזכרכי אם לא אעלה את ירושלים על ראש שמחתי

And then comes that one day when, like a forgiving merciful mother, you collect us back from all four corners of the world, cradle us like babies in your loving arms and make us fall in love with you over and over again.

To live you, to love you and to experience you, Eretz Yisrael, is utter bliss and the most exalted blessing of them all. For many of us, you are and forever will remain our first love.