I have read many articles this passed week extolling the virtues of living in Israel. Because next week, on Tuesday (actually beginning sundown on Monday) Israel will celebrate its 66th anniversary as an independent state. Not that, in actuality, Israel isn’t much older, but she likes to think of herself as a younger person with all the attributes of an up and coming youngster with a bright future ahead of her.
Truly, it is remarkable that a country smaller than Lake Ontario and with fewer people than the greater metropolitan area of New York City, fighting four major wars in its short history, countless mini-wars against an enemy hell bent on her liquidation and after only 66 years, increasing its population from 650,000 on the day of its birth to almost 8.2 million folks today has managed against all historical odds When Israel arose on May 14, 1948 only 35% of its citizenry was native born, today that number is 75%. That’s a lot of immigrants and loads of Jewish babies.
No, I’m not going to turn this into another statistical paean to Israel’s growth, nor am I going to expound on its achievements however magnificent. I am going to tell you what Israel really is.
Israel is a Jewish mother. Yes, it has all the positive and negative stereotypical characteristics of a combination of the Bronx type Jewish mother character of Molly Goldberg and her Mizrachi counterpart from any one of several Arab states who never spoke a word of Yiddish and to whom gefilte fish is what she wouldn’t even feed her cat.
Israel kvetches constantly. Nothing is good enough for her children and her children never cease to disappoint her or make her kvell (gush with unadulterated joy). Her children are either at each others’ throats with arguments over who is more important, who she loves more, who gets the biggest dish of ice cream and who needs to shut up and go play outside. She is the perennial parent who sighs and heaves her chest with frustration or fills her bosom with air and thrusts her top half forward with pride and happiness when her children are successful.
Israel is annoying and cloying. She will tell you what to eat, how to eat it and remind you to finish what you start or leave the table and go to your room. She will grab you and shake you and never let go till she either pinches your cheeks till you beg for mercy or she gives you a smack on the tuchas( that’s “ch” sound like trying to get a fish bone out of your throat) and then feels guilty for doing either one so she runs after you and hugs you till you can;t breathe. But she loves you.
Israel never lets you forget that she will always be around for you-even after she is too old to chase you around the kitchen table with a cloth to wipe some shmutz ( dirt or mess after eating too fast) off your face or with a wooden spoon to shake in your face at your face when you are naughty. She will always tell you, “Wait till your father comes home,” and then protect you when your dad wants to punish you.
Israel will make you feel guilty for doing what you think was the right thing at the time and constantly remind you of how you hurt her feelings or made her look bad to her friends. She will try to make you cry and sometimes succeed, but bring you a cloth to wipe the tears from your cheeks.
Israel will feed you when she goes without, she will clothe you with the best when she is wearing hand me downs and your room will shine while her own room might need a new coat of paint.
Israel will be anxious when you don’t call her often enough but she will love to hear your voice anytime. She might think you are nuts, she might tell you that you are wrong and that your opinions are out of line, but she will always listen and sometimes, even do what you suggested. She is full of surprises.
So, why do I call Israel, a man’s name a “She?” Because women are not always smarter, but since G-d’s presence, the “Sh’chinah” is a female noun, there has to be a reason. There is an old Jewish adage that states that G-d could not be everywhere all the time so G-d created mothers.
After all, none of us would be here without our mother. Sure, fathers had something to with it at the beginning, but mothers made it happen. Mothers sheltered us, fed us, gave us the ability to be born and started us all on the path of life.
Israel is the quintessential Jewish mother. She sustains us, her children,the citizens of Israel. With all her faults and with all the grief we cause her, she has never, and will never stop loving her children. That is why we love her and why we will always protect her. That is why we won’t ever let anyone shame her or hurt her.
Yom Huledet Same’ach, Ima. Happy birthday, Mom. Your children honor you and wish you long life.