What Israel means to me

Pride.  It’s really that simple.  When I think of Israel, my heart is filled with pride.  Does it seem logical to be proud of a country that is virtually a pariah state?  Does it seem right to be satisfied with a country that seems to be hated by the majority of the world?

But in a world that lacks moral clarity, then yes it is.  Israel is not like any other country.  I doubt it ever will be, nor would I want it to be.

Its history is filled with turmoil and dispute.  It fights to survive against odds under which most countries would have crumbled.  Its policies are constantly under attack by nations both in the Middle East and around the world.  By rights it should have disappeared ages ago.  The Jews should have been a memory you would read about in Ancient Roman writings.  But they aren’t. They are real and living in their own country and around the world.

Its funny how a piece of earth can mean so much.  Beneath our feet is the same soil that lies in all the world’s crust.  Above us is the same sun that warms us all.  The air that fills our lungs is the same air we all breathe.  We all sleep under the illumination of the same moon.  And the water that flows against our shores is the same water that flows throughout all the world.

And yet, this soil is different.  As a Jew, I know that the Land of Israel is not like any land.  We walk on land that Abraham walked on.  We breathe the same air that Joshua breathed.  We feel the heat upon our faces that Isaac too once felt.  And perhaps we gaze upon the same ocean the way Joseph might once have done.

It is a remarkable feeling to walk in the same footsteps of our forefathers.  Yet that is Israel.  Every step you take is stepping into the living history of who we are and where we are from.

No, Israel isn’t perfect.  No-one said it was, but somehow that all seems insignificant when hearing the air raid sirens on Holocaust Memorial day or Remembrance Day.  It reverberates in us the same way the Shofar once did in ancient times.  And on Independence Day we celebrate with real joy today while never forgetting yesterday.

Israel is a country of so many contrasts.  Its people are diverse and exotic, its land wild and beautiful.  The Jews that live there and the Jews that live abroad are from so many places, yet we all have the same thread of history running through us.

Yet more than anything else, Israel remains one thing to me.  Despite the pride in its scientific and medical achievements, despite its defiance to a morally twisted world, despite its perseverance to defend its people, despite its commitment to peace, despite its cultural richness and despite its freedom of speech and religion, Israel will always be a place that will welcome me back one day.

It’s true that I may look at Israel with a certain idealistic stance, but in a world that can be cold and filled with hate and darkness and despair and hopelessness – is a bit of idealism such a bad thing?

About the Author
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.