From the rising sun to the setting day to the still moon and the majestic stars and the renewal of a new day I love being Jewish and Israeli.
From my earliest memory in the desert sand of my birthplace, Beer Sheva, I felt an enormous river that flowed and flows through me. A river of such beauty, colors, sounds, and dazzling lights of multi-layered passions, meanings, heroism and sweetness that it carries me and overwhelms me with such radiance of belonging and purpose, springing from the wells of eternity. A river so rich with depth, truth, dreams, hope and holiness which is Judaism, Zionism and the Human aspiration for Home and Utopia. All three flowing in an unified dance of Life over defeat, Life over destruction, Life over death, Life over sorrow, and Life over Loss.
The desert winds of my Beer Sheva with its camels and Bedouins that lived outside my home blew within it the names and spirits of my ancestors, my forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and my foremothers – Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. With each step I took as a babe, as a toddler, as a young boy I could feel their warm embrace. With each neighbor I heard and spoke my language, my Mother language, my Hebrew.
With each neighbor I felt centuries of connection and return. The Moroccan Jew. The Iraqi Jew. The Polish Jew. The Ethiopian Jew. The Hassidic Jew. Each with his, each with her, story I connected to their unique story of longing to return Home, of persecution, and of the tenacity to overcome untold hardships and wanderings. Such a landscape of indigenous Souls returning home,
What a sight it was!
To witness the strong and brave. To see my Father in uniform. To watch the parades of selfless men and women, of teenage boys and girls, fully aware of their commitment to their brother and sister, to mother and father, to grandmother and grandfather. To see my flag with its mighty Star – the Star of my King David, surrounded by the blue strips of the Holy Talit – the Prayer shawl – gave me such a sense of unexplained pride and belonging because it was and is based on 4,000 years of blood, sweat and tears.
So many tears – with so many indescribable sacrifices to stand one’s ground, one’s truth, one’s purpose, one’s identity, one’s mission – to be a People, to be a Nation, to be Whole again, and to be a Light in a sea of darkness, to be Am Yisrael – the Nation of Israel.
And so every day from that day, at the breaking of dawn as I open my eyes I humble myself, and with great gratitude I acknowledge the Creator’s great kindness for renewing my Soul and returning it to a New Day to sanctify my mind, thought, speech and body to the wondrous ideals and aspirations of a desert people, forged in the desert winds, molded by the desert solitude and seared in an eternal Covenant with the Creator of the Universe to be a Nation, dedicated to the refining of the spirit of ourselves and our fellow family of Nations.
As I place my prayer shawl and bind upon my heart and mind the Word of the Covenant, I each day carry anew the torch – the baton – handed from Jewish father and mother to child to rejoice, exult, and to dedicate myself to the highest aspirations of humanity.
Each day I am overtaken by this river of Souls who for nearly four millennium committed themselves to a higher moral, ethical and holy calling to change themselves and the world for the better.
Oh. How I love my Judaism! Oh. How I love my People! Oh. How I love the commitment and longing of my People! Oh. How I love the Hope of my People!
To know that I am carrying on the the same traditions, the same language, the same prayers, the same dreams to feed the hunger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to rejoice the bride and bridegroom, to escort the dead to their final resting place, to bring peace between husband and wife, to love your neighbor, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to refuse to gossip, to deal fairly in business, to commemorate one day in seven to the Creator and to family, to celebrate holidays of national liberation and to study, learn, practice and internalize the Wisdom of Spiritual and Moral Truth – the Holy Torah as my family line, within my People, have done for nearly 4,000 years, is both mind boggling and awe-inspiring.
But to know that my People’s dreams and traditions were not ideals in a vacuum, but were the norms and mores of an actual living, breathing and vibrant nation-state within actual borders in an actual place with actual historical documentation only enhances my bittersweet feelings of belonging and loss.
On one hand, I take great pride to know that my People is an ancient People that was renowned in the ancient days of the greats: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. On the other hand, I am sad and melancholy to know that for 2,000 years my People were like a soul without a body desperately attempting to hold onto its identity while the rest of the world, time after time, tried to convince us that our time had come and went, and we, should like so many ancient peoples, recede into the backdrop of history to be a relic.
And so I stand with bent head in utter amazement at the superhuman and utterly heroic fortitude and courage of all the Souls who kept true to the Oath, taken by kidnapped slaves on slave ships who swore, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its power.”
These children who swore to their parents as they lay dying, “We shall return. We will never forget our home. Within in our prayers, we shall remember (The Shemoneh Esrei Prayers). Within our thanksgiving prayers for our sustenance, we shall remember ( The Grace after Meals). Within in our Weddings, we shall remember (The breaking of the glass under the canopy). Within our festivals, we shall remember (Next Year in Jerusalem). And within our dirges and fasts we shall remember (All the fast days for the destruction of Zion and Jerusalem).”
Yes. We are the longest lasting indigenous people to hold fast to our Home, no matter the centuries – 20 centuries. No matter the hate and destruction – the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and the rise of global anti-semitism via BDS.
And that is why I am so proud to be an Israeli.
As a Jew, my family, descended from Levi, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, and remained loyal for 20 centuries to a promise – a promise to return Home.
It took nearly 1,900 years to fulfill that oath – overcoming persecution, poverty, sickness, and wandering through the Middle East, Europe, and Russia to return in 1878.
And Return we did.
And so too many others returned Home in the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. Years before there was even one concentration camp.
There was always a presence in the Land of Israel with Judeans – Jews. There was even a Jewish state in the years 610 – 615 – the Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth, lasting five years.
And that is I why I love being an Israeli.
You see, to be an Israeli takes an unique person.
It takes a person with a healthy sense of self. A person who was able to rid him/herself of the inferiority complex that so many Jewish people feel because they are a such a small minority outside the Land of Israel.
This complex is known as the “Exiled Jew complex”. The complex that can best be described with the analogy of an abused wife. Until the moment she empowers herself with a sense of confidence, self-love and worth she will demean herself to the point that she will even hurt herself.
In other words, the bullied Jew is so mentally degraded that he/she cannot recognize his/her worth, and worst yet, the right to exist.
And so this person will kowtow to anti-Semitism and self-loathing.
But the Israeli Jew has a healthy sense of pride, worth, and more importantly, courage to fight and even lay down his/her life for their fellow Jewish brother or sister, and even for their fellow non-Jewish brother and sister, as did Michael Ben Zirki, who drowned rescuing three Bedouin children and their aunt.
An Israeli Jew seeks to better the lot of all: Arab, Christian, Druze, and secular even though he/she is surrounded by constant war and terrorism.
An Israeli Jew continually innovates new ways to bring Light to the World.
So, Seth Rogen, I love being Jewish and Israeli.
I love knowing that I belong to the only indigenous People in history that withstood every conceivable form of destruction and remained true to its Oath and returned to its Home, Language, Land, and Capital to fulfill its great national mission – to be a Light and Inspiration to all Nations.
Am Yisrael Chai -The Nation of Israel Lives