By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept as we remembered Zion. There on the willow trees we hung up our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors, for amusement, said: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil? – Psalm 137.

The seat next to me was empty and a girl in her mid twenties sat by the aisle. It didn’t take long before we were engaged in conversation. We had little in common, yet somehow we connected. I explained to her that despite my American sounding Hebrew, I, like her, was born and raised in Israel. She asked why I was traveling to London. I explained that I had a connecting flight to the United States, where I was going to spend my summer. She was a transfer student returning from a short visit home.

“Would you consider living abroad one day?” she asked.

“Never!”

If you live here, you know what I mean. She got it — she understood the confidence and pride in my response. We mused about how Israel is the only country in the world where everyone around us is family. Eventually she returned to her studying and I returned to admiring the clouds. As we parted at Heathrow International Airport, I felt a deep sadness inside. I was going to miss my sister and I didn’t even remember her name.

Eretz Yisrael was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped

– From the Declaration of Independence

Members of the community adorned in blue and white gather around the parking lot of our synagogue. No cars are here tonight, only giggly children fumbling with flags. At dusk, the ceremony begins. Young children take turns standing behind a podium, barely exposing their eyebrows. They stutter and mumble as the microphone makes irritating scratchy sounds; they read their scripts. Somber music is played, not without error, on instruments I cannot name. Adults seated on chairs, children on the pavement sitting cross legged – all are spellbound.

The bloody colors in the sky fade with the emergence of the moon and its brigade of stars.

Suddenly, as if by surprise, everything changes. The flag dancers huddle together, elated that the time has come for them to awkwardly dance around in circles, waving their flags in the wrong direction at the wrong time, trying hard to keep the smiles plastered on their faces. Then, in commemoration of history’s most recent miracle, the sky is decorated with blue and white balloons.

The program, transitioning from Memorial Day to Independence Day, has been the same since before I was a daglanut dancer myself. Why then do I get choked up, hopeful that my sudden urgency for a tissue will go unnoticed, year after year?

The Land of Israel is an essential unit bound by the bond-of-life to the People, united by inner characteristics to its existence.
Therefore, it is impossible to appreciate the content of the sanctity of the Land of Israel and to actualize the depth of love for her by some rational human understanding – only by the spirit of God that is in the soul of Israel

– Rav Kook, Orot

Living in a war zone isn’t pleasant; it was a pain carrying my bulky gas-mask to school throughout eighth grade. Tell me I’m being cheesy, scold me for using a cliché, but I’ll still maintain that there is no place on this Earth that I feel safer. It is clear that God is here. He is protecting me. He is guiding me. I can relate to Him directly. When I travel abroad I feel like a traitor.

Like a pulsating heart, Israel is the life-source of it all; Diaspora Jewry exists because of Israel. There is no form of human expression that can uncover what it is that makes this country unique. All I can vouch for is that it exists and it is Godly.