A lot of my non-Jewish friends ask me why Israel is my favourite tourism destination, particularly when there are so many other destinations that also boast knowledge-boosting historical sites, glamorous party venues and luxurious beaches. My answer to them always remains the same: because it’s a land like no other!
You see, Israel is a melting pot of Jews who come from all over the world, including the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, Ethiopia, India and North and South America! Although one would expect these people to differ in culture significantly, there are so many traditions and customs that all of Israel’s people share.
Everywhere I go, I see people eating Shwarma, Falafel, Hummus, Pita and even more region-specific dishes such as Kichel, Mulawach and Shuckshuka.
Everywhere I go, I hear people using the same daily expressions that I use on the other side of the world, whether a common phrase such as Behatzlachah (good luck) or something more philosophical, such as Gam Ze Yavor (this too shall pass).
And this doesn’t even cover Jewish customs, whereby the majority of religious rituals, prayers and community structures have remained uniform for Jews from all corners of the earth!
On an even deeper level, we all share the same love of our homeland, a gift from Hashem, and the same love for it’s people. I will never forget the first time I visited Israel. 31 June 2014. I got off the plane, only to hear that Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the boys who had been kidnapped outside Hebron, had been murdered. It did not matter that my tour group were from the diaspora; we mourned for our lost brethren, who were fellow Jews and fellow children of Hashem.
I will never forget the feeling that swamped me that night; a feeling of heartbreak, yes, but also a feeling of unity. The entire Jewish nation came to a standstill; everybody prayed together, mourned together, and picked one another up off the ground in order to move on. It was not a feeling I had felt before; it was not a feeling that I had ever expected to experience! It was a feeling that confirmed that, although the Jewish people have suffered from the most horrific forms of brutalisation throughout history, we continue to have a strong will and an indestructible character, whereby we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and continue down the special road that Hashem has paved for us.
This is why I love Israel. It gives me a feeling of belonging. This is why I love Israel. It feels like home no matter how familiar you are with the land. This is why I love Israel. Because it is a land of blessing, strong resolve and unity, and serves as a constance reminder of Hashem’s love and guidance. A land like no other!