Don’t Mess with Mom

Having lived there for years and being married to an Israeli, I feel like I am fairly knowledgeable about Israel, which means, naturally, that I have a love/hate relationship with the State.

I loved living there for a finite time and love to visit, but I have no desire to move there permanently right now. I respect Israelis and value time interacting with them, but I often tell my husband that we would not actually be married today if his family weren’t actually Anglo. I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist as a State, but I don’t agree with every decision that the State makes.

I would never say that to the general public, however.

It’s like Israel is my mother, and, although I feel completely justified in my criticisms and feel talking with my “brothers” about them is acceptable, I immediately jump to the defense anytime I even sense an outsider’s critique.

When I was growing up, I got mad at my mom because she unjustifiably sent my brothers and me to our rooms. There was a vent that connected our rooms, and we would crouch on the floor and whisper our frustrations to each other through the vent. We totally agreed, at the time, that our mom was the worst mom, and everything she did was totally unfair.

Later that evening, however, when we were out playing with the neighborhood kids, if one of them even casually referenced anything negative about our mom, we would all adamantly jump to her defense, not tolerating attacks for a second because, clearly, our mom was the absolute best.

This is exactly how I feel about Israel. Israel, just like every other nation and people in the world, has her faults. Israel is, after all, a nation made up of humans and run by humans, and, therefore, has its share of problems and imperfections. But she is, through it all, just like my mother, and she, therefore, deserves my honor.

Exodus 20:12 even directly connects the land of Israel to the concept of honoring one’s parents by saying, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that God is giving you.” Tradition holds that nothing in the Torah is by mistake. There are no extra words, and phrases are intentionally placed next to each other. The proximity, then, of the reference parents and the reference to the land just serves to reinforce this connection between honoring one’s mother and the land of Israel.

We are a family. We have our strange uncles and crazy cousins. We have our siblings with whom we never speak, but to whom we feel an unexplainable connection. We have our wacky traditions that no one outside of the family understands, and we have the quirks with which others have to live. And, yes, Israel is our mother, connecting us all and deserving our honor.

About the Author
Dr. Sarah Levy holds a Master of Jewish Education and Certificate in Day School Education from Hebrew College as well as a Certificate of Advanced Jewish Studies as a graduate of the Pardes Educators Program. She has also earned a Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University with a Certificate in Jewish Leadership Studies. She has over twelve years of experience in the field of Jewish education, including experiential, supplemental and day school education. After teaching for the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD for the past three years, she now lives with her family in Denver, CO where she teaches for Denver Jewish Day School, coordinates a synagogue high school educational program, is the director of adult education for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, and develops Jewish Studies curriculum for different programs locally and virtually.
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