One week ago today, I returned from Israel after not being there for three years. We left when our son was a month old. Suffice to say, this visit, more than most, was infused with streams of moments I hope to always remember.
I, an Israeli-American woman, originally from a Templar moshav in the Galilee. My husband, Lior, from a large town, 80% of whose population is Haredi. Ironically, he and I met in Brooklyn, but our childhood homes are kilometers apart. While we have a strong and somewhat traditional Jewish identity in our home, we are not Haredi.
My grandmother, G-d bless her, is originally from Romania. She left for Israel at seventeen, surviving a harrowing journey to raise a family. From ashes emerged futures, and destinies, including my own, were allotted a life.
So many homes we entered. So many faces we saw.
While at the Kotel, my son and I saw an ill Ethiopian woman brought to the wall by ambulance. An elderly Ashekenazi Rabbi blessed her. The women at the wall then immersed her with prayer. A family, celebrating a Bar Mitzvah was taking photographs. A young Russian couple asked me to take pictures of them. Soldiers, all kinds of soldiers, joined us, as we all danced around this marvelous place of hope and love.
During the entirety of our visit, the election was the topic of conversation. Whether in Qiryat Atta or the Golan Heights, politics surrounded everyone’s dinner table. The divisiveness was palpable. Total us vs. them. Us who? Them who?
On the last day of our stay, my brother-in-law, who was a long beard, dons a black hat and suit, asked me with absolute respect, if I ever felt like a ‘black sheep,’ visiting Lior’s home town? My honest answer has just now emerged…
How could I, the granddaughter of a survivor of Auschwitz, the wife of a man who’s family immigrated to Israel from Morocco with such passion and faith, feel anything but pride? But I am not singular in this kind of description. We all share a piece of this thing we hold, our collective history. We cannot escape it. Yours, and his, and her story are all a part of mine, and this is eternal.
A long-time family friend showed me his rather new olive grove. I saw us all, standing, absorbing the warmth. Such potential. There are olive trees that are centuries old blanketing the hills of Israel. Their trunks twist, revealing notches and holes with the passing of time.
We are not a people defined by borders. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we shed our costumes, let go of our self-created barriers, and allowed our transcendental connection to thrive…?
Imagine that Israel. I know I do.