Just yesterday we mourned her losses. Thousands upon thousands of innocent mothers, fathers and children lost at war, in terror, with hate. We shed tears for those we knew, and those we didn’t, because – no matter the distance – we feel close. It’s not simply the ‘it could have been me’ factor, but a very deep we factor running through the veins of all Jews affiliated with Israel. Whether living or visiting there, it is near impossible not to feel a profound sense of kinship with our fellow Israelis. And so we cried with you, and for you. But today we celebrate. We show the world that, although there will be times and ways in which our enemies succeed in hurting us, we will go on. Not only will we pick up the pieces of our broken hearts, we will dance with them and celebrate. Not only have our enemies failed to destroy us in person, they have failed to destroy us in spirit. Even broken, together we will stand. And, not only will we stand, we will dance! With tear stained cheeks we will put our arms around one another and continue to live lives that pay tribute to those that were stolen from us.

It’s not for nothing that Israelis are compared to Sabras. Thick skinned and tough on the outside is likely a necessary front for those that seek our demise, but also a likely result of difficult life experiences too often, too young. Still, you don’t have to delve far to find that soft and sweet inside, the saving grace amongst our own. How else would the fabric of such an intricately complex nation be woven and manage to withstand so much, if not for the strength of its fibers? Though one may seem tougher than the next, each stands alongside another, and together – the more tightly we are woven – the stronger we are.

Israel truly is our Mother Country. Whether living or only visiting there, we’ve all experienced moments of utter frustration at how things do or do not function; the odd hours of operation, baffling levels of ‘customer service’, and the red tape that seems to stare you in the face screaming NO just ‘because I said so’. Yet, despite exasperation, we return –or stay– hoping Mother does indeed know best.

And just when you find yourself in a slump, stranded without a ride or Shabbat meal, not enough food to get you through the sirens and lockdowns, or no one to help you carry the heavy (thin plastic) grocery bags up four flights of steps, along comes a sister you’ve never met to help you make it through. Or the taxi driver who yelled at you for questioning his curiously high meter rates just days before will come and carry your bags because he happened to be walking by. He might also invite you for Shabbat dinner, and were you to go he’d be offended if you brought anything other than yourself.

Where else do such sentiments of unconditional love, periodic frustration, moments of uncontrollable tears followed by laughter and joy with abandon exist if not among family? No matter what struggles we endure we know our Father has a plan and is overseeing it all on High. We have faith and believe that we can go on. Mother knows what’s best for us too, even if at times we wonder what her motives are and struggle to see the reason in some rules. We know she’s doing her best to make day-to-day life more manageable and productive amongst the many in her charge. She may discipline with her left (weaker) arm but will always pull us in and hug us with her right (stronger) arm. Our brothers and sisters abound. Some make us wonder how it’s possible to come from the same parents, others make us thankful for the metaphoric/literal oceans between us, and some we are closer to but just don’t get to see each other often enough. Still, when push comes to shove, we are all there for each other. No one can speak badly about one of us to another without equally hurting the listener. No one can attempt to attack us without another coming to our defense. Our blood runs thick and deep – no one can ever break our bond. Indeed, we are family! Am Yisrael CHAI.