Tattooed body half way lost in a packing box the removalist responds with a, “Aah so you’re going home mate.” This is his muffled response to the question of our final destination.
In fact, this has been a constant refrain from Aussies who have heard of our impending Aliyah. Not so much from Jews. My Jewish acquaintances have generally responded with a, “Really? Israel?” Or, when they discover that our children are in Israel, “Aah suppose that makes sense you want to be near your children.“ This they can fathom.
Actually this is not strictly true. Yes like many, missing out on important milestones – the wedding of our only son – has certainly brought Aliyah closer. Australia locked out its own citizens for 2 years and would not allow those inside of “Fortress Australia” to leave. For our own safety you understand.
But, like those before me, the desire to return home is wired into my spiritual DNA and was always inevitable. Actually though, it is part of all Jews’ DNA.
Going back to the typical Aussie response to me of going home. I often wonder how they “get it” more that we Jews? Yes, while I am an uprooted Jew, born on one continent and now living on another, Israel is in the truest sense my home. Our home.
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and messenger to all humanity through his writings, had his yartzheit last month in Sivan. He has had the most profound impact on shaping my Jewish journey. But, that is another story for another time. Suffice it to say for now that his view on Jerusalem resonates deeply in terms of returning home. In his novel “A Beggar in Jerusalem”, Wiesel writes, “One doesn’t go to Jerusalem, one returns to it. That’s one of its mysteries.”
But, it is not such a mystery. As Zionist, Diaspora Jews we think we live in two physical locations. However, we live not in two physical places, but rather a physical and spiritual dimension. When we live outside the Land we live physically in the country of our birth or choice. Spiritually we always live in the Land. We carry its energy deep within us. We live in the Diaspora and contribute to our societies. But we do not truly belong and nor should we.
Each time I have returned to Australia from Israel I have felt this. I carry the sounds and smells and tastes of the Land and the heartbeat of her people deep within. I carry home with me not a suitcase, but memory. And with each departure I leave a small part of me behind in Israel.
I believe that when we have the zchut to truly return home, we bring the physical and spiritual into balance and harmony. We have circled back. To the beginning. To the promise made to Abraham and Sarah. To the promise made to us, in every generation.
Israel is my destination. My home. But there are still many steps to go and lessons to learn…