I fell in love with Israel after reading a book. I can admit it now. I was 13-years-old, and I’m actually re-reading the book again. For the first time in my life, I understood things about Israel and the Jewish people that I had never known. My appetite for information was insatiable. I read all that I could find about Israel and then, slowly and painfully, worked my way through literature on the Holocaust…first hand reports from survivors, the Eichmann trial transcripts and more.
I was determined to make Israel my home long before my quest to understand had been fulfilled. I came to Israel for the first time when I was 16-years-old and cried the tears that only a teenager can have when a left a few weeks later.
I came again at 18, a bit more mature, on my own. I had a small budget and six weeks to walk, to talk, to learn. I fell more deeply in love with this land and the people who live here.
I came one more time – when I was 21, facing a most difficult choice. I was madly in love with the boy, and the boy didn’t want to live in Israel. I had to choose and I chose love. I came to Israel and took hundreds of pictures and when I returned home and began arranging them in an album, I realized I was saying goodbye. I would never go back to Israel as a tourist, I promised myself. I owed Israel more.
The young man and I broke up and then we got back together, we talked and agreed to come live here because here was the only place I could live. We moved here 21 years ago and I have never looked back.
Israel is a nation unlike any other. Don’t believe that nonsense some throw at you that we are not moral. There is no more moral a country in the world than in Israel. At this moment, we are not flattening Gaza as most countries would do. We are not starving them. Heck, we aren’t even cutting off the electricity they get for free.
We are a nation that cares for its own, and for others. Inside our borders and in far distant lands. We didn’t rub elbows with many rescue workers from Arab countries in Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia, or Haiti while we were there.
And I can’t think of a single other country who took in the grandchild of their enemy, the wife of their enemy, the children of their enemy and not only treated them with some of the most modern medical facilities in the world, but we did it with respect and honor. And we did this while they held our children and in the case of Gilad Shalit, refused him adequate medical care.
I work in hi-tech and marvel at all that we bring to the world – this too is ignored by the enemies across our borders, and worse, the enemies within our borders.
And today, fires were set to destroy huge amounts of the forest around Jerusalem. Those who burn the land cannot claim to love it – it just doesn’t work that way.
And there were riots on the Temple Mount and over thirty instances of rock throwing attacks, and rockets fired at Israel. But within our borders, we know a peace most people cannot understand. It’s really as simple and as beautiful as the land itself. Each morning, I awaken to the beauty of another day here in Israel. I look out towards the Judean Desert and know that we were here once, we were here always, we will always be here. That simple.
Those who tell you that we live in an oppressive society are liars and worse, they are traitors. They cater to our enemies, cry for their children but not for ours. They ignore the freedom with which Arab and Jew and Christian walk the streets of this land, shop in the stores, ride the trains. Nowhere else in the Middle East is such a thing possible. Nowhere.
If you go to a hospital in Israel, as I did last week, you will likely find yourself examined by at least one Arab doctor; assisted by at least one Arab nurse. You will find close to half the people in the emergency room seeking treatment are Arabs – and none show fear or worry that they might receive less than equal treatment. I was taken to the x-ray machine before one Arab patient; to the CT machine after another. Whatever logic the hospital had in treating us, it had nothing to do with our identity.
It is wrong to live within the safety of Israel and apply a double standard. If you judge our society to be lacking, at least have the decency to admit it is by far the safest, most democratic, and most free land in any direction for hundreds and in some cases perhaps a thousand miles.
It is Israel that welcomed the Vietnamese boat people when no one else would. It is Israel that has worked tirelessly to fight international human trafficking and it is Israel that rushes, time and again, to assist others around the world as well as in our own backyards.
No government is perfect, no land without fault. But there is little more pathetic in this land than those who rush to criticize without balance. We know what happens to the opposition in most of our surrounding countries; only in Israel can a member of the Knesset stand up and be allowed to speak out against the very existence of the nation that pays her a salary, give her a voice and then give her protection when her insensitive and criminally cruel words wound a nation in pain.
And still, Israel retains its humanity. Still we fight to find our sons without harming those who are innocent. It is Israel that released 1,027 terrorists and murderers for one young man…only to have one of those who were released turn around and murder a father of five as he drove, unsuspecting, into an ambush with his wife and children in the car.
On days when I am frantic with worry over the three kidnapped boys, I refuse to listen to the sick voices of self-hatred from within our land. I refuse to give them the honor of taking my attention away from the central focus we all have at this time. What matters more than the seething hatred of the blind, is the hope and strength of our people.
I think of the three mothers – they are grace and dignity. They speak quietly and with respect. I have not heard them once scream out in anger, not once have they done anything but thank those searching for their sons and those praying for them.
It’s dark in Israel right now, so very dark. But we have the promise that dawn will come and the prayer that tomorrow, day 14, will be the last one in which the boys are separated from their parents. We have the beauty of the land and Jerusalem.
What we have to do is listen to the music above the noise; find the peace we seek within our borders. We have welcome the Jewish people home again and have made the strangers in our midst welcome. Christian and Jew and Muslim can pray at their holy sites here as they can nowhere else in the Middle East. That is a great accomplishment for a country that is only 66 years old.
So for now I will listen and remember Israel is a nation state like others in the world, and unlike all others. We have crossed through all manner of hells to get to this land, the land promised to us. And if, amongst us, there are those too blind to see, to deaf to hear, to filled with hatred to love, it is no matter because we have created a heaven of sorts here. For now, we can hear enough, see enough, love enough to thrive.
May God bless the land of Israel and the people of Israel and may He bring the boys, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, home safe to their families and their people.