Israel. It’s incredible how such a small place can hold so much space in the hearts of so many. You know what they say: small in size, large in personality. I’ve always loved Israel, but on my most recent trip over the chagim, I fell in in love with it — teenage-y, bubbly, giddy love, the kind that makes your heart pound and your palms sweat. There were dozens of times throughout the trip when I stopped in the middle of the street to cry out of sheer awe and love for the tiny, wild little country. It was on this trip that I decided to take the steps towards calling Israel home for good. Though the journey is yet to begin, and though there may be a long road ahead, I know in my heart that Israel is home, whether I currently live there or not.
I arrived in Israel in September with a bounce in my step and a heart full of love. Immediately upon arriving in Jerusalem, I knew for certain that the idea to move to Israel wasn’t a sweeping, impulsive decision. It was while standing in Machane Yehudah on Friday afternoon, watching as hundreds of Yerushalmim bustled through the open market with their Shabbat loot in tow that I realized my heart truly belonged to the land. As I stood on the land of my forefathers, feeling the energies of Erev Shabbat in Yerushalayim race through me, I recognized perhaps for the first time in my life, that I had come home
And then the attacks began.
Dozens wounded, thousands hiding in fear.
Parents lost, families torn apart, innocent blood spilled on our very streets.
Are you still considering Aliyah with all of this madness?
I’ve been asked that question hundreds of times in the past two weeks. Everyone has to know: will I still consider making the plunge in such dire circumstances?
Are you sure?
Isn’t it dangerous there?
Don’t you want to wait until it’s safer?
I answer in the words of Hillel: If not now, when?
Yes, a new wave of terror is sweeping across Israel. And yes, there is what to fear. But there is also what to love. There is also what to praise and what to celebrate. Where there is life, there is a reason to celebrate. And if there’s one that thing that Israel does well, it’s celebrate life.
At the location of every terrorist attack in Israel over the past month, hundreds of people have gathered to sing, dance, and commemorate the lives of those whose lives were taken too soon. I was in Israel during the attack in the Old City that killed Aharon Benita and Nehima Lavi and wounded two others. Not a day later, hundreds of Israelis stormed the Arab quarter, marched directly to the site of the murders, singing and dancing the whole way through, for it was Simchas Torah after all. That shows the true strength of the country and the nation. That shows the truth behind who we are and what we represent. The following week, I was walking through Kikar Zion only hours after an attack on Mount Scopus. While hundreds of cops swarmed the area looking for the armed terrorist that had managed to escape the scene earlier, a crowd of fifty Yeshiva students began dancing in the square, waving their hands and shaking their feet with joy. Nothing could stop them; not the cops, not an armed assailant. They were stronger than the terrorists; they celebrated life. As I watched these men dance, my eyes brimmed with tears—tears of joy, tears of belonging. Only the Jewish nation would fight terror by breaking out in song at two in the afternoon on a busy street corner. Only in Israel would people fight terror with music, and not hide in fear.
When I think of Israel, I look past the violence and the terror and look instead at the strength of its people. The people of Israel have risen so many times, and will rise again, no matter how the world turns their backs on us. No matter how our enemies fight us to the death, Israel will always rise. Where others glorify death, we will always glorify life. Watching the nation react over and over again to countless acts of terror in the past month has reminded me how strong we are as a nation, and how much stronger we are when we stand together.
One can never be sure of the future; that’s what makes life as exciting as it does terrifying. But there is one thing we can always be certain of, and that is that G-d is watching over and protecting the land of Israel. Indeed, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. And if there’s one thing that has been made clear during recent events, it’s that we’re not going to cower when terror strikes. We never have, and we never will.
Sometimes, distance is necessary for the sake of clarity. Now that I’m back in Los Angeles, everything has become clearer; Israel is where I belong. It may take months—or years—until I can finally call The Land my permanent place of residence, but I know it’s where I want to be. What happens next is in G-d’s hands. While I hope that the situation in Israel will improve until my return, the violence will not be the factor that slows me down or delays my journey. No amount of terror, fear, or threats from our enemies will change the truth: Israel is home. Israel is where I belong. Libi b’mizrach; my heart remains in the east and there it will stay.