It only takes a weekend to remember how exquisite Israel is. It can be so easy to forget, especially after a summer like the one we just had. But in a weekend, it’s possible to remember why we first fell under Israel’s spell and have remained enchanted ever since.
I’m no birder, and have never had an interest in bird watching, but those assumptions went out the window—literally—as I sat in awe on a tractor a few days ago with 30,000 cranes swirling over my head. It may sound reminiscent of a Hitchcock scene, but in fact, it was one of the most truly peaceful moments I’ve had this year. We were out in the middle of the Agamon Hula Lake valley in northern Israel, the setting sun painting the surrounding mountains in swaths of pink and purple. With the sunset as their cue, 30,000 migrating cranes swooped in from every direction to settle down for the night in the center of the lake. The voices of these majestic birds calling to one another quieted us, and we listened to them, taking in the picturesque landscape that felt more like an African safari than the Israel we knew. I had no idea that such a sight was only a short drive from my home. I could have sat there for hours.
When you’re living in Israel, it’s crucial to host visitors from abroad from time to time, because they refresh your perspective. Through their eyes, we can re-see Israel. Their astonishment over Israel’s accomplishments in just 65 years reminds us of why we chose to move here in the first place and how—despite the many pitfalls and struggles—there really is no other place like it.
After all, in what other country can you live on the beach in a city like New York, and in two hours drive to every possible type of terrain: mountains and cliffs, desert and plains, rivers and lakes, and miles and miles of breathtaking beaches? It’s miraculous, when you think about it. In fact, it’s hard to take a step in Israel without stumbling over a miracle.
Whether you call it the proof of the existence of God or the new face of anti-Semitism—or both—Israel has a way of fulfilling a different standard than any other country in the world. And it makes you stop and wonder…why?
- Israelis make up 0.1% of the world population, yet we are consistently at the forefront of world media attention. Why is that?
- As ebola spreads death and panic across the world, one tiny nation so small that its name doesn’t even fit inside its borders on a map is the first to have an ebola vaccine at the ready. Why is that?
- From 2006-2013, Israel was condemned in 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council—more than the rest of the world combined. Yet Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Why is that?
- Israel has more startups per capita and the largest venture capital industry per capita than any other country. More Israeli high tech companies are traded on NASDAQ than any other foreign country. Why is that?
- In regards to its population, Israel has the highest ratio of college degrees, scientific papers published, museums, and the second highest per capita of new books. Why is that?
- During this summer’s war with Gaza, Hamas leaders complained that “their God changes the path of our rockets in mid-air.” And an Iron Dome operator claimed that “the hand of God” changed the wind and sent an incoming rocket into the sea. In what other wars have members from both sides claimed that God was protecting one side over another?
The list goes on and on. Israel may be a lot of things, both good and bad, but it’s nothing if not a nation of miracles. It can be incredibly disheartening to think of the millions of people out there deriding, slandering, and isolating Israel every day. But I try to comfort myself with the thought that if Israel has proven anything, she’s proved that quality trumps quantity in every category.
So even if we are just a tiny speck on the world map, and less than a percent of the world’s population, I’m proud to be a part of that tiny speck. That’s not to say I don’t have my “I’m tired of Israel” days. But the next time I do, I think I’ll just get in the car and drive.