Last Shabbat I decided to take a ride on my new bike. What a challenge and a blessing it was to negotiate my way along the path occasionally obstructed by either a bulldozer, a crane, various building materials, a “do not enter sign” or a slight diversion from the main road. Our Eretz Yisrael is being built, built and built – new highways, new roads and new homes. None of the other bikers, men, women, young and old, seemed to mind any of the obstacles. We just followed and enjoyed the ride.

As I turned into my favorite park, which only several years ago was a wasteland, a mere collection of barren dunes, I was greeted by the sounds of music, laughter and the joyous voices of young children running freely, playing with their family and friends.

 They were all there among the trees and the beautiful blossoming flowers. Among the Israeli Jews, Jews of European, Ethiopian or Yemenite origins, I could spot some Arab Israeli families, all enjoying the beautiful sunny autumn day next to each other. I smiled as I slowed down when I cautiously passed by two elderly people holding each other with one hand and holding a walking cane in the other. I waved to the two handsome young men, who  like myself regularly frequent the park, as they were sitting on a wooden bench staring at each other with eyes full of love and longing. What a kaleidoscope of cultures and experiences in a Land where freedom and Life are celebrated

 I observed the mothers unpacking lunch and lovingly setting up a makeshift tables, with  colorful dishes  while the fathers were preparing to BBQ some of their favorite food. Memories of my childhood and visits to the park surfaced. I loved those days, now in the realm of the long and almost forgotten past, when we spent many hours among the wild woods of our young country breathing the fresh summer evening air, playing hide and go seek or simply having a bonfire and roasting potatoes. We were free then and we are free now. We are free to enjoy this G-d given slice of life where we can appreciate the gift and precious present of being back Home, in Judea, the Land of Yore and our eternal Eretz Yisrael.

 Suddenly, I heard the Israeli Air force helicopters flying above. I stopped my ride and raised my head up to follow them with my caressing eyes as I silently expressed a little prayer of gratitude and asked G-d to protect those young lives who are entrusted with our safety and security.

 We are alive, Am Yisrael is Alive.  Am Yisrael Chai and will continue to thrive and flourish in its Home, the Home where, not only the houses are ours, but also the streets of the growing developing cities, the mountains, the valleys and the hills where I will hopefully continue to roam for many years to come, continue to rejoice with my people and guard this Land, this Promised Land forever and ever!