Coming Home: Beginning My Own Birthright

It’s been nearly 10 years to the day since I first landed in Israel. Since the first time I took off my shoes, and placed my feet on sacred ground. Since I realized that no matter how long I would stay, no matter how many times I would have to leave, I’d always come back.

That time, I was with my best friend and his parents. It was his Bar Mitzvah present. Lucky me, he called me to come with. We spent 3 weeks, mostly in the North. One of my vivid memories from the trip was that I somehow knew, even then, that I didn’t truly understand where I was. How deep my heart yearned for that land. I felt it, but I couldn’t figure out how to say it. It was just a fun trip with my friend.

Seven years later I returned. Since I was already on track to be the president of my campus Hillel, I ended up interviewing myself for Birthright. This time, I went with a few friends and a lot of new friends. This time I understood. This time I got it. And just as it was beginning it was time to end. Ten days is not enough to see one city, trying to see an entire country is a Sisyphean task. Every morning we woke up and rolled the rock up the hill, strengthening our minds with an unhealthy combination of caffeine, alcohol, and amazement. The early mornings on the bus and late nights around a hookah proved entertaining, but superficial. It’s a taste. I wanted the whole meal.

For three years, I’ve yearned. For three years I’ve waited and waited and waited. And now it’s time. I’m sitting in an airport. Soon I board a plane. And then another one. And soon, I’ll wake up on the other side of the world, greeted by friends, and family, home in the land of my people. It’s travelling, but it’s returning home.

As long as I see an Israeli flag waving over a Canadian city hall and my heart wells up in my throat, this is coming home.

As long as I can stand in a room with 500 of my AEPi brothers from around the world, Canadians singing “Oh Canada”, Americans singing the “Star Spangled Banner”, Britons singing “God Save the Queen”, and every soul in the room joining the Israeli delegation in Hatikvah, this is coming home.

As long as my eyes look eastward to the land of my ancestors (and this time I’m not talking about Toronto, Montreal, or even the “Old Countries” in Europe), this is coming home.

And as long as I can use 21st Century technology to take a picture of a 2000 year old wall and dance in a square with men in payos and army fatigues and t-shirts, with a Magen David around my neck, right by my heart, this is coming home.

As long as the heart within me beats to sustain a Jewish soul, this is coming home.

About the Author
Zack Babins is a Parliamentary Intern in the House of Commons in Ottawa. He graduated from the University of Guelph, where he was a leader in campus Jewish organizations Hillel and Alpha Epsilon Pi. All views are, of course, his own. He doesn't expect many will share them.
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