Dear Israel,

I just returned home from visiting your beautiful country for two weeks. I have carried home stories in my heart that I hope I can convey to paper. But before I get to those stories I have to tell you one thing. I am so sorry. Sorry for being arrogant, ignorant, naïve, and judgmental about the way I think you should run your country and live your lives.

I have been an armchair quarterback. An observer from the sidelines thinking that I knew more, at times, than you who are actually in the game.

I have been like the politicians in outside countries trying to tell you how to best live your lives. No one, absolutely no one, knows how to live your life, except you – the one who is actually living his or her life in the Land. As Netanyahu once told an American statesman, Israel looks a lot different from across the Jordan rather than from across the Potomac.

Indeed, you do look different. You are so much more beautiful in person than a picture could ever convey. All of you. From the men selling their wares in the shuk, from the soldiers carrying their guns, from the boys and girls at the beach, to the black clad orthodox with different hats, to sweat covered pioneers building homes, to the jeans and kippah wearing crowd, to the women in flowing skirts and colorful head coverings – you all have something in common. You are Israel. And you are beautiful.

From the minute I got off the plane, I was humbled by you and amazed at you. Just look at you! You are living your life in the Land. And that is no easy thing to do.

I applaud your courage, your strength, your ingenuity, your fortitude, your sacrifice – all that it takes – to live in Israel.

I once yelled “Get your head in the game!” at my daughter while she was playing a basketball game. She chewed me out afterwards. Rightfully, so. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines. Much easier than being the one actually playing the game.

And of course, this life you are living in Israel, it is so much more important than any game.  Infinitely so.  Which makes it even worse that politicians and those of us who think we know best, sometimes treat your lives as a mere game.

I hope I merit to return to your beautiful land someday soon. Until I do, I will still be yelling from the sidelines, but it will no longer be criticism. Instead, I will yell what I now yell for my kids while they’re playing a game. “Be strong!” “Good job!” “You’ve got this!” And always in my mind I will be thinking one thing about you.  That you are amazing.


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