I have been given the honour of writing for The Times of Israel. I want to introduce myself to all of you and express my hope that you will enjoy my blogs and express that joy by interacting through your comments. I read comments. I learn from them. I tend to get involved in the discussion. Two Jews, three opinions.

I am a proud Canadian. My government, for all its flaws, is not afraid to take a moral stand. No waffling, as is so common, today, in a world of moral and cultural relativism.

I was born and bred in Toronto. I came into this world in the first decade after the Holocaust, long before people talked about it. But I have memories of the importance of Israel from a very young age. The ubiquitous JNF blue box.  And I remember strangers at the Shabbos table-from Europe-some having come through Israel. I remember jokes about the number of refrigerators my dad had sent to Israel to help families.

In 1990, a high school classmate of my eldest child went to Israel on a Jewish sponsored  trip. The last weekend was spent on the beach in Tel Aviv. That was her last weekend. A bomb exploded on the beach.

That didn’t stop my middle child from going on a Jewish sponsored trip in her 20’s. A terrific experience.

In the 1990’s I had the blessing of traveling with my mother to Israel, twice. I remember my mother’s first comment when we arrived in Jerusalem, fresh off our plane. She said she felt at home.She was  overwhelmed by the “Jewishness” of it all. Street signs in Hebrew. The Israeli flag everywhere. She had grown up in Toronto which had been filled with anti-Semitism.Her biggest regret was that my father had never been to Israel. When he was a young boy he had witnessed pogroms in Sussef, a town that was sometimes in Poland, sometimes in Russia. He couldn’t bear the idea of seeing soldiers with guns so he “visited” with his good deeds.

Mom was in her late 70’ the first trip and early 80’s on the second one. She was a trooper. We “did” Israel. We meandered through Jerusalem and spent time at the Western Wall. We took the tour underground and walked through the Old City where we saw the damage done by the Jordanians in 1948. We went to the top of The Temple Mount and into the Mosque. We saw the stone where Abraham’s hand was stayed by the angel. We had a meal at the YMCA in Jerusalem, tea at the King David and a rest stop at the American Colony Hotel.

We saw the ice rink built by Canada at the Lebanon/Israel border, had dinner at the edge of the Galilee.  We stayed at a kibbutz, went to the top of Masada. We met the UN soldiers at the Syrian border-they were Canadians at that time. We sunbathed on the beaches of Tel Aviv after walking around the city, remarking on its vitality. And watched a most spectacular sunset over the Mediterranean.

I love Judaism; intellectually, spiritually, a little soft on the observance. I love the “pilpul” over the centuries. I love finding my own way through the Biblical stories, finding new entry points.

I love Israel; the country, the people, the food, the ideals. This is a country that became a thriving democracy within 65 years of its inception. How amazing. My country is almost 150 years old-still relatively new in the grand scheme of things-but still struggling with identity and democracy:not unlike our older neighbour-The United States.

I am excited about writing here so that I can keep you up-to-date on the events in Canada-well, at least through my lens, and give you my own unique spin on all kinds of events; moral, ethical, political, social…

I look forward to a long and happy relationship.

Shalom Chaverim