I remember each of your first breaths. Watching brand-new life come into this world is nothing less than a miracle. And to witness Jewish life be born within the borders of the Land of Israel after 2000 years of exile and wandering the world compounds that sense of miracle many times over.
Imma and I moved our lives to Israel to take advantage of and to take part in these historic times when the Jewish people once again have sovereignty in their ancient homeland. We wanted to live in a country where being Jewish is the norm, not something you have to explain or, even worse, you have to hide. Where national holidays are the holidays our people have been celebrating for thousands of years. Where Shabbat is collectively felt, whether one is religious or secular. Where Hebrew is not only a language of prayer and study, but of conversation and community as well. Where the country’s flag and national anthem are telling our story, not someone else’s.
Though you naturally take it for granted, as natural-born citizens of this land you are experiencing something that was a distant dream for generations of Jews. Your great-grandparents, and their great-grandparents, and their great-grandparents lived in lands very different than the one you call home. And while they knew those lands were not their true home in this world, it was all they knew and they made it their homes the best they could.
Their experience of the Jewish homeland came through traditions instituted long ago to help Jews never forget where we come from, as well as through words in our communal prayer book and the longing in their hearts.
You experience Israel every day with your feet, with your entire beings. When you go to school. When you go on bike rides with friends. When you run up and down the driveway. When you walk into town to pick up pizza. When you simply step outside.
We learn from the Talmud that every few steps a person takes in the land of Israel is a mitzvah. And if we understand the idea of doing a mitzvah as an opportunity to create a deep connection, then you, my children, are connecting very, very deep to this place. Every single day of your lives.
I want you to know that Israel does not only provide you with a place to live, but, more importantly, it gives you a sense of place. A sense of knowing that you are in the one place in this great big world that was chosen for our people to be free to be who we truly want to be. And who we know we are meant to be; as individuals, as a society, and as the Jewish nation.
My hope and blessing for all of you is that you will always be proud, knowledgeable, committed and proud (yes, I know I said it twice) Jews and Israelis.
Learn about all that the Jewish people have been through during the darker periods of our history so that you understand the importance and necessity of having a Jewish state.
Learn about our more modern history so that you understand what others did, gave and sacrificed in order that we have a country of our own once again.
Do your part in helping to maintain Israel’s existence and to make Israel an even better place to live for all Israelis.
Know that being a Jew and an Israeli means that you have a responsibility to help the world, using the wisdom of our ancient tradition in conjunction with modern technologies and innovations to overcome and solve global challenges.
And, lastly, know that watching all of you grow up in the Jewish state, immersed in a Jewish culture and society, speaking Hebrew and walking this land, confirms for Imma and I that moving here was absolutely the best decision we have ever made.
Am. Yisrael. Chai.