My address has been the same since the day I was born. My home, though, has always been more than seven thousand miles away from Dallas. I will be permanently returning home to the State of Israel in 907 days.
Long before my Eastern European great-grandparents came to the United States, before the Spanish Inquisition through which my family suffered, and before the Romans expelled us from our homes, each and every one of my ancestors came from the Land of Israel. After 2,000 years of forced separation from our homeland, not a single generation of my family has forgotten that the small strip of land between Africa and Asia is where we are meant to be. Blessed to have been born at the right time, in the right place, to the right parents, I have been granted the privilege of returning to the land of my ancestors and of my people. I derive infinite joy from the knowledge that my children will be the first Rudners born in their homeland after 2,000 years.
In all honesty, the love I have for my l homeland did not stem from one experience or one trip. My passion for my people is the result of the way I have been raised for nearly 18 years. I do remember a particular time, however, on my most recent trip home, that I felt especially in love with my country. I was in eighth grade and my classmates and I were spending the weekend in Jerusalem. For dinner, my friends and ate at an Italian restaurant and browsed around a bookstore and a souvenir shop. Crossing the street, my friends and I looked both ways and hurriedly stepped back onto the sidewalk. By accident, I collided slightly with a young girl about my age, and proceeded, as is custom in America, to apologize.
“Slicha (sorry),” I said. My friends and I continued to walk and the girls, who were in front of us, were laughing.
“Amerikaim (Americans),” I heard them say. I knew that they were making fun of me because of my social niceties, which are not a large part of Israeli culture.
Referencing my fear of crossing the street, I walked up to the girls and jokingly said in Hebrew, “Sorry that I apologized but I’m a wimp.”
One of the girls excitedly told me, “I’m a wimp too!” We dramatically hugged and laughed as a larger group of Israeli teenagers crowded around to see what all the fuss was about. “We’re both wimps!” we told them.
After some more laughter at the flamboyant foreigner, the two girls grabbed my hands and began singing a popular Israeli club song, the lyrics of which come from a verse in the Torah (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlpJkyoZac8). Coincidentally, I had learned the lyrics just a few days before. Jumping up and down, I let the Hebrew lyrics flow from within me.
“We are believers, children of believers and we have none else to rely on but on our father, our father in heaven,” we chanted.
In America, I love going to my Jewish youth groups, to the Jewish Community Center, and to synagogues because everyone is family. Israel, to me is a larger version of that community. Israel is a country in which everyone is family, so using expressions like “please” and “thank you” is strange enough to warrant a few stares. Israel is a country in which everything is everyone’s business. Israel is a country where the language spoken is the only one I feel comfortable speaking. Israel is a country where no one is a stranger. Israel is a country where I can dance on the sidewalk with someone I’ve never met.