The flight’s delayed at Newark, and we’re all sitting by the El Al gate – there’s Yossi and Liat moving through the crowd telling us “emmm we’ll have an update soon about takeoff,” and I’m tired, and everyone’s crowded in toward where the line should be, we are an impatient people (except when it comes to waiting for Moshiach and then we are patient like whoa.)
There are babies crying, and a bunch of women in shiny brown wigs speaking Yiddish, and, like, hundreds of Birthrighters in sweatshirts and flip-flops laughing and talking, and three or four Israelis sighing “nu b‘emet” and sucking unlit cigarettes, and Jim and Alejandro from airport security keep telling us to back up and sit down somewhere and everyone is like LOL no.
And I’m fkn annoyed. All the people, all the NOISE, and I just want to get in my seat already and take an Ambien and go the F to sleep.
But then I get it:
On Friday night, I gave a speech at The Community Synagogue (Port Washington, NY) — a speech with the request (really the plea) to just come to Israel and see it in all it’s messiness and splendor. Because we are not a normal country, and in order to get that, you have to be part of it — even f it’s only for a 10-day trip.
And that’s what happening all around me.
Almost everyone I can hear is speaking English — these are Americans taking time out of their lives to visit Israel. These are Americans who despite all the complications, and all the nuance, despite the soundbites, and the bullshit from many of our leaders, these are Americans who feel that pull — the same pull I feel — and are throwing their fate in with Israel – whether it’s for 10 days, or two weeks, or for the rest of their lives.
Three Haredi women tell me that they’re sisters going home to see their ill mother.
Another couple tell me it’s their first trip.
And all around me are all these Birthrighters in their Taglit Birthright Israel shirts — yeah, ok, they’re obnoxious AF, but good for them: They’re vibrant, loud, Jewish kids who give zero fucks about what you may think of them while they walk around in shirts with big old Jewish stars on them — and I catch my breath thinking about what it must have been like to have been Jewish in Poland or Hungary less than 80 years ago — How different these kids are from my distant cousins, the cousins that stayed in Europe, the cousins who were herded off to Auschwitz with Jewish stars sewn on THEIR shirts when they were around the same age as the kids all around me.
And everyone and their mother is talking to each other — total strangers are talking about Israel… “hey, where’s a good place for hummus in the Old City?” And “Do you know the Berkowitz family?” And “Oh my GAWD, Rachel?!? What are you doing here?”
All these people — all so different and all so beautiful — thrumming with excitement to go to a country the size of a fingernail — our wrestling, embracing, insistently thriving country.
And i’m not annoyed anymore. I sit back and listen to all the voices — the sighing, and the laughing, and the arguing, and the talking, and I am grateful.
I am grateful that we have a country that can bring us all together like this – a place that may drive us crazy at times, but that we love — a place that is ours — for us, and for generation to generation.
A place where we can live out loud.
A place we can treat like home.