I’m an Israeli. Now what does that mean? It means that I am a citizen of the State of Israel, the world’s only Jewish nation on the planet. When I think about that, it makes me feel special. Not better than anyone else, only privileged to live in a country that occupies the same land (although not all of it), whose people speak the same language as they did 3000 years ago, and  who maintains the same faith that began almost 4000 years ago by a man named Abraham, which happens to also be the name of my next door neighbor.

I’m an Israeli. This means that I need not make any apology for what my government and military do to protect my life, the lives of my family members and the lives of the guys I play poker with every Thursday night. It also means that, if I must, descend into a hole in the ground, or lay down on the pavement with my hands over my head, when my enemies decide the time is right for them to lob a rocket at me.

I’m an Israeli. So I don’t shy away from combat either on the battlefield in uniform or on the pages of Facebook which is overloaded with hate filled diatribes against me and my tiny Jewish country, or in public forums or, if necessary, on the street to confront those who aid and abet my foe. You see, I am no longer the cowering Jew in the corner, or the young boy who hides his Hebrew book under a newspaper-that is something, regrettably, that many of my fellow Jews in the Exile, have to do to avoid attack or ridicule.

I’m an Israeli. this means that I am never alone. No, not in the sense that there is always someone at my elbow(except on line almost anywhere in this country) but I have brothers and sisters who do not even know my name-and they could not care less about that when I am in trouble. When I took a bad fall in the street (I can be a bit of a klutz) and had the breath knocked out of me, there were people everywhere offering to help me up, call the police or an ambulance, giving me a bottle of water, even a young mother with a stroller, came over to me with one of the wet wipes she uses on her baby, to wipe the dirt off my face. And I am not a kid. Tell me one place on Earth that would do the same for a total stranger.

I’m an Israeli. I live in a country surrounded by people who want to kill me, so what else is new? Wherever Jews lived, and still live, in Exile, there are people who want them dead. The difference is that I can and will defend myself and anyone who comes to me looking for trouble is going to be sorry. Oh, I am not a great martial arts expert, I do not own a gun, nor am I the strongest man around. but I will never stop fighting for my right to live free under the sun.

I’m an Israeli. For sure, I take a lot of criticism (for want a far more accurate expletive, but I cannot think of one foul enough) for whatever I do, or, for what my country does, or does not do. Sometimes I think it doesn’t pay to even try. After all, as an old adage goes about a Jewish peddler, “If I sold umbrellas, it would stop raining and if I sold clocks, time would stop.” Oh, it’s not an excuse, nor is it an explanation, it is, sadly, a fact. We Israelis get blamed for much and applauded for far too little, but we are just as likely to be blessed and cursed at the same time. Ask the Ass of Ba’lam( in the Bible).

I’m an Israeli. To me, the Hebrew Testament (I hate the expression “Old Testament” it sounds like something outdated. like expired tuna fish in the can) is my history book, my first bit of reading material. Oh, I realize that there are folks who consider parts of it like a fairy tale or other parts of it to be cruel and unyielding. But you have to look deep into it to find the truth and the reality of what it speaks about. About how a just society can be created where men and women can live together and a very noble concept that many nations seem to have forgotten. That the Law was GIVEN to man, and that man was not handed over to the law-quite a novel concept from my people-probably something that we have been hated for by evil civilizations for centuries.

I’m an Israeli. Sure, I might not have been lucky enough to have been born here-for that, I lay the blame directly on my grandparents on both my mother’s and father’s side. If they had left Europe from Odessa instead of Hamburg, chances are better that I would have entered the world in Tel Aviv rather than New York. But then, I am just happy to have been born anyway cause my grandparents were smart enough to leave Europe when they did, or me and my parents might never have ever seen daylight.

I’m an Israeli. That means that I, along with all my fellow citizens, are blessed to be living in a place and at a time in history where we are all free to be Jews without apology, without fear and without shame. We can be what we are and celebrate what we have. We live by no one’s by your leave and we can be here for all the Jews in Exile who wish to come home.

I’m an Israeli. This is my home, my nation, my land and my people for eternity.