On one of my visits to spend time with family in the United States, I stood alone one night on my mother’s ground floor balcony and gazed upon the multitude of other apartments and their respective balconies in the condominium complex. I pondered on how each unit represented a whole world, a universe in-and-of-itself; a family with young children, an elderly couple, a lonely aging bachelorette . Each of these little universes directly adjacent to the next, but in reality worlds apart, the thin walls separating each from the other. This intimate space was shared with dozens, hundreds of stories, struggles and live breathing human beings I had no clue about.
It then struck me how all of us in the world struggle to find that little piece of real estate we can claim as our own — that little corner of the world that provides us with the security and means to sustain ourselves. Our homes are the fundamental starting point from which we build and maintain order in our lives. There we can find respite, safety at night, a place to safeguard ourselves and our possessions, protection from the elements.
Our history as Jews is replete with the struggle to find that piece of real estate that we can call home, claim as our own, both as individuals and as a nation, from the micro to the macro. Our 2,000 year-old odyssey in exile provided us with the moniker “the wondering Jew”. Since the destruction of the Second Temple and the dissolution of the Jewish nation-state at the hands of the Romans, few nations granted us the right or accepted our presence within its borders indefinitely. Ultimately, the time came when they threw us out and forced us to keep on marching, scrambling once again to lay claim to our little corner of the world.
And thus, throughout our history in the Diaspora, official decrees of expulsion against the Jews were issued, among others, by authorities in France, England, Spain, Bavaria, Portugal, Hungary, Moscow, Kiev, Lithuania, Prague, the Papal States of the 16th century and Egypt. This is in addition to the countless of instances the local population and powers that be made life so unbearable for us (through such means as pogroms, blood libels, crusades, legal restrictions of all kinds) that we as a people were forced to once again pack up what was left of our belongings (or what we were allowed to take with us), along with what was left of our loved ones, and look for greener pastures. Our most recent addition of unaccommodating hosts constitutes the Arab countries leading up to and following the establishment of the Jewish state.
Needless to say, the exclamation point placed on our Diaspora experience was the Nazi executed Holocaust, resulting in the brutal murder of two-thirds of European Jewry.
Thus the nations hosted us, as we attempted to find and establish that most basic element necessary to live a life — a home. Certainly, we enjoyed great successes and achievements along the way — a testament to the indomitable will of our people to overcome the deepest adversity and continue to strive, rebuild and persevere. As meek and powerless as others sometimes may have viewed us, or we may have viewed ourselves, we are a people blessed with an eternal will to live, to dust ourselves off and start again (and again and again); to repair ourselves, better ourselves, lift ourselves from the mire and reclaim what and who we are.
For millennia our people looked with hope to Jerusalem, prayed to Jerusalem, that one day we will be redeemed and our people will return to Zion, to our ancestral home. The Zionist idea has been a part of our tradition and religious ideology throughout the length of our ignominious Diaspora. Lo and behold, one day, a secular Zionism arose, influenced by historical events and nationalist movements, and gave rise to a belief that we too as a people are entitled to our own national home. A secular Zionism that was infused and fueled with a 2,000 year-old dream imbedded in our genetic code and our collective memory. This mainly secular movement spread, gained strength, a deeply devoted following, and brought a 3,000 year-old biblical prophecy to life, becoming the instrument of its fulfillment.
No more were we to be subject to the whims of the nations, fluttering like a leaf in the wind. We would take control of our own destiny and establish our own national home, lay claim to our little corner of the world, in our ancestral land, and free ourselves once and for all from our powerlessness.
We tried almost everywhere to simply live a normal life, but they would not let us, time after time. So we finally took fate into our own hands (with the hidden hand of the almighty by our side) and proclaimed not only to the world, but most of all to ourselves: “enough is enough!” And we thus returned home, our true home, the only true home we ever had.
Of course life is not simple and nothing is given for free. Our home was not empty of inhabitants upon our return. To those who where here upon our arrival and naturally, understandably, believe this is their land, we say you are welcome to stay and become part of our nation reborn — the Jewish nation. But let there be no mistake, try what you may, think what you may, we are here to stay.
Let us be clear and believe in the justice of our cause, because it is a cause just and true. After 2,000 years of the world having its way with us, we say “the buck stops here!” It is time to look out for number one, and all the cacophony coming our way from the nations cannot permit us to lose our bearings. All you hecklers and naysayers from amongst the nations, you abdicated your right to utter even a peep, you have absolutely no moral authority to dictate to us, and doing so only adds to the stench of your hypocrisy.
Fellow Jews, I know we are deeply fractured amongst ourselves. I, as one Jew whose power and authority is, well, not so grand, nevertheless stand up and proclaim, we are here by moral right in the fullest sense of the term, never to be uprooted again, no matter what any Gentile or fellow Jew may say. No apologies, no moral confusion, no guilt.