It was a bewigged and browbeaten woman, barely five feet tall, who convinced me to move to Israel.
Her story was one of heartbreak. Toeing the poverty line, with six children under her care and twins in her womb, she fell victim to a terrorist attack.
She lost both unborn babies and all feeling in her left leg. But through her deep sense of faith, she gained hope.
I met her just months after the end of the Second Intifada. Along with the rest of the country, she was entering the healing process. Hers was primarily defined by prayers and a promise that if G-d gave her another set of twins, she would dedicate her life to helping those stricken by similar circumstances.
Already at an advanced age at the time of her miscarriage and in light of the recent deterioration of her health, the odds of conceiving were strongly against her. Yet, the sense of hope she drew from the very idea was enough to buoy her over and nobody dared tell her otherwise. I observed with awe as that same sense of hope manifested itself in various forms from the Golan to the Negev, and served as a collective cure-all to return resilience to the soul of the nation.
I would soon learn this was not unique to the aftermath of an intifada; in Israel, hope was part of the landscape.
In fact, the country itself was built upon two thousand years of hope in the form of a prayer for “next year in Jerusalem.” Repeated throughout the hardships of history, through inquisitions, pogroms, genocides and finally culminating around a seder table in Sderot, the Jewish people never lost hope.
It is with a pocketful of hope and little else that Jews from Odessa to Addis Ababa left their homes for their homeland, receiving the safety, security and freedom for which they longed.
It’s no coincidence that Israel’s national anthem is called Hatikva (the hope); it corresponds directly with the nation’s past and with the most basic of Jewish precepts. Israel was built on hope. It has survived on hope, and in its short 66 year existence, it has given hope.
Through technological innovation, Israel has given hope to millions of disabled children in developing countries throughout the world by providing wheelchairs to empower education through mobility. (http://www.wheelchairsofhope.org)
Through medical advancements and research, Israeli academic institutions have given hope to women and families suffering from fertility problems and have even found a way to extend the research to cancer patients, who might otherwise never have been able to experience parenthood.
Through humanitarian efforts, Israel has given hope to countless wounded refugees from Syria seeking treatment across the border by opening their hospital wards to them.
Through democratic values, Israel has given hope to the LGBTQ community around the world, and especially in the neighboring Palestinian territories, by offering them shelter from prosecution.
The Jewish people have held on to hope for generations. It has become a part of our tradition.
The bewigged woman, I told you about, was no exception. With a grain of faith and a heart filled with hope, she finally gave birth to twins a few years later.
She kept her promise and founded a terror victim support center in Jerusalem named after her twins, who brought her and the people of Israel renewed hope.
On the eve of Israel’s 66th birthday, I have one hope for these twins, and that is for them to grow up in a country that knows peace and always gives hope because my own experience has taught me that there is no greater blessing than to give and to get hope.
Margaux Chetrit is the founder and president of Three Matches, an international dating agency. Her insights on love and sex are inspired by a career in diplomacy, a panoply of academic degrees and ex-boyfriends.
For more of her musings, please visit: www.threematches.com or follow her at www.twitter.com/threematches and www.facebook.com/threematches