At 2 a.m., I woke up in a sweat with my heart beating fast.
“It was just a dream,” I told myself as I pulled up my blankets and listened to the peaceful sound of crickets outside my window. But deep inside, I knew it was much more than just a dream; that dream was an experience which will stay with me for a lifetime.
Deep in slumber, I was transported to a different time, a time before the Jewish state existed, when there was no safe homeland for the Jewish people. Throughout the dream, I was running between countries. I started in Syria, then found myself in Egypt, then Lebanon, and in each of these countries I witnessed destruction beyond belief and violence not even seen in movies. Everything was dark and everyone was staring at me with death in their eyes. “Don’t let them know that you’re Jewish” was the only thought going through my mind.
I ran around in dirty clothes, my hair dusty, with my head down. “I just need to find Israel and then I’ll be safe,” I repeated to myself. But Israel was nowhere to be found. In utter fear, I kept running among the ashes, my legs exhausted, tears in my eyes, on the brink of despair. It felt like forever.
And then I saw it.
From afar, I saw a border crossing that had divine light shining on it, in midst of the darkness. A big Star of David covered the golden border gates and confident soldiers stood guard. “Finally, safety!” I remember yelling out loud and running as fast as I could to make it to freedom.
As I approached – without saying a word – the gates opened and the soldiers’ stern faces transformed into smiles. “Welcome home,” they said, as I fell to the ground, laughing out loud, sobbing with joy, and soaking in the much yearned-for feeling of belonging.
And then I woke up.
Even though it was a dream, it felt real. I found my sense of belonging and peace on the holy soil of Israel.
And after searching and running over what felt like the entire world, it was the only place where I found safety.
What I have realized in the few weeks since I had that eye-opening dream is that God sent me a gift. In one dream, I experienced the 2,000- year exile and suffering of the Jewish people – along with the miraculous liberation of our ancient homeland.
I have often thought what a blessing the modern State of Israel is to the Jewish people, and how it is the manifestation of the collective prayers of my people through thousands of years of exile and persecution.
But since I had this dream, my heart can finally feel what up until now only my mind was able to grasp.
Many Westerners might think that this is the end of the story; that we have the State of Israel and therefore the idea of a Jew being persecuted, scared or threatened is a thing of the past. But sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Just last week I greeted a group of dozens of new immigrants in Netanya, who made aliya on IFCJ-chartered flights in the past month. As I spoke to the young adults and families from France, Ukraine, South America and Turkey, they all shared the same sentiment: Indeed, it is scary to move to a new country and start from scratch, but the reality that they are seeing in their countries of birth is just too scary to ignore. “I wanted to make aliya before it’s too late,” was what most of these educated, level-headed people told me when I asked what inspired them to move to Israel.
I spoke to a young man from Melilla, a small city governed by Spain but adjacent to Morocco, who described his life as “wonderful” until ISIS started taking over in the past year.
“Now it’s just fear,” he said, unofficially speaking for the 800 Jews who remain on this “island of fear,” which was once a paradise for the ancient Jewish community there.
Sadly, this is not an isolated situation.
Every week the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews receives dozens of emergency requests from Jews around the world – specifically in Middle Eastern countries – to help bring them home. We make sure that within a month they are on a chartered flight, destined for Israel.
And when I go to the airport to greet them, very often I see the look in their eyes which is so eerily familiar from my dream; unadulterated joy, thanksgiving and relief to have a homeland to escape to.
As part of my daily prayers, I try to remind myself that the life I am living in Israel is historic, an invaluable and precious gift from Heaven. As a young woman who was raised with Zionist values and has only known a world with Israel in it, I find it disturbingly easy to take Israel as a given, and focus on the problems this newly established country faces.
And indeed, we have our problems: birth pangs which lead to improvement and development. But those are the details.
The larger picture is that we have a homeland. And that’s enough for me.
The writer is senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.