Writing a thank you note to show one’s appreciation is at the top of the list of Southern Etiquette 101. So that’s what I’m writing and sending to Israel, again. I can’t help it. I’m Southern. I’m a writer. So as you can imagine, the write-a-thank-you-note-compulsion in me is strong.
Recently a Japanese newspaper inquired about sending a reporter to my town to interview me along with other people who support Israel. The interview had to be postponed. But it got me to thinking. I was going to be asked why I support Israel. Maybe even asked why I love Israel. So why do I? What is the root of the root of my love and admiration for Israel? The answer simply boils down to the fact that I love and admire Jews.
A friend from Israel recently commented that I must be part of the tribe of Benjamin. He knows how much I love the region of Benjamin and that I have the good intention of becoming more active in supporting the Jews who live there. I think he represents what a lot of Jews think about people like me. They think that non-Jews who love Israel so much and feel an attachment to Israel must have a smattering of Jewish DNA in them. Maybe. But I don’t really think so.
I think I’m just lucky. Very lucky. Lucky that God picked me of all people to basically drop an enormous, unexpected love-bomb in my heart for Israel 21 years ago. At least that’s what it felt like. And still does. It’s a love that has only intensified.
I admit that when I first started loving and supporting Israel it mattered a great deal to me that the Jews were considered “God’s chosen people.” After all, I love God, therefore it makes sense to love what He loves. And yes, in the beginning, I had a bit of attachment to Israel, or at least a fascination, due to eschatological beliefs (which have pretty much all gone out the window.) But at the end of the day, the reason I love Israel is that I love Jews. And if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to briefly gush about the reasons why.
Before I visited Israel a few years ago a Jewish friend felt the need to warn me not to come with a “romantic view” of Israeli Jews. I laughed and assured him that I wouldn’t pack any romantic notions in my suitcase. Yes, I tend to see the best in people. And, yes, I tend to be a bit naïve about a lot of things. And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I’m a bit of a softy who has a penchant towards admiring strong (sometimes a bit hardened, maybe even prickly like a sabra, rough around the edges, authentically blunt, resolute, staunch, not always nice but always caring, indomitable) people. But one thing I don’t think I do is see Jews through rose-colored glasses. I do, however, think I see them a bit like the potentially annoying younger sibling who looks up to and wants to be like his or her older sibling.
I look up to Jews because I love and admire their strength collectively and even more so in the ones I’m lucky to have gotten to know individually. I love how resilient they are. I love how many of them have a deep-seated faith but are prone towards ceaseless action. It’s like they believe that God can do anything, but they’d never wait around for Him to prove that. They take the reigns in life. They are pragmatic believers, supplementing their faith with effective deeds. Add the fact that any Jew even has faith in God after the Holocaust is amazing in and of itself to me. Maybe a lot of Jews only have a cautious, abstract faith simmering deeply below their intellect; a faith that they allow being there simply because it’s part of their DNA. Whatever it is, though, it seems that even secular Jews are attached to God in their own way. A way that uniquely brings God into the world and makes it a better place.
You might be thinking that I just described a lot of people in the world. After all, Jews aren’t the only ones who are strong, resilient, full of faith, action-oriented, etc. Very true. However, the fact that Jews exhibit these traits while in the cross-hairs 24/7 of nations, groups, and individuals who hate them and want them dead, heightens the fact of how remarkable they are. Jews build while being forced to defend against destruction. Love while being so hated. Are full of life while being pursued by those who celebrate death. Invent cutting-edge technology while combatting barbarism. Have an unparalleled sense of humor despite experiencing tragedies. In such extreme, adverse circumstances Jews haven’t just survived, they have thrived. While parts of the world conspire to destroy Jews, Jews conspire to make the world a better place.
It’s not just me who has an extreme love and admiration for Israel, although, I doubt anyone feels it more deeply than I do. I’m just a representative of so many non-Jews who support Israel. Perhaps our reasons vary greatly of why we love and support Israel. But at the end of the day, we know how vital Israel is to the world and to us. And we know that what makes up the essence of Israel, what makes it so great, are the Jews. We simply can’t imagine the world at large, and our own little worlds, without Israel. It is vital to our existence. It is a beacon shining to us in a sometimes darkened world.
Another Jewish friend once described mutual reflection as the paragon of how the relationship between Jews and non-Jews should be. Really, of how any relationship should be. She said, “The ‘receptive’ among the nations take in the light that Israel sends forth but also reflect it back to Israel.” She pegged me. That’s what I, along with many others, hope we are – a reflective light back to Israel.
To reiterate, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m not the only one who reads Psalm 106:4,5 and asks God to count me in on that. “Remember me, O God, when You favor Your people; be mindful of me with Your salvation. To see the goodness of Your chosen ones, to rejoice with the joy of Your nation, to boast with Your inheritance.”
In closing, allow me one more round of lauding. One more appendage to my thank you note. Thank you, Israel/Jews for being such an example of strength, fortitude, beauty, toughness, durability, courage, innovation, etc. May you go from strength to strength ad infinitum as you continue to be an indispensable light to the world.