What Israel Means to Me

     A few years ago, Professor Alan Dershowitz published a collection of essays titled, “What Israel Means to Me”. Included, were the words of prominent writers, performers, scholars, politicians, and journalists. To each, Israel was something different. For some, a home. For others, a haven. For most, a great ally. My invitation for contribution must have been lost in the mail, but nevertheless, Professor Dershowitz asked a very complicated question that I found myself struggling to answer. However, I believe that I have now come to an answer I can be satisfied with. One that is bound to change with time, but that puts to paper what Israel means to me now, as a 16 year old American-Jew.
     Israel and Israel alone has a unique place in my mind and spirit. Though is Israel is not my home, it is nevertheless my homeland. It is a sensation unique to Jewry and impossible for the outsider to comprehend despite my greatest efforts. In my short life, I have ventured into Israel only twice. Despite my lack of time spent in Israel, each visit has set off an unbelievable nationalistic spirit buried deep within leaving a gaping hole in my heart every time I leave.
      Only in Israel do shopkeepers cry tears of joy and hug you upon finding out this is your first time wearing tzitzit. Only in Israel do total strangers enthusiastically invite you into their homes for Shabbat dinner after brief conversations. Only in Israel does an army full of teenagers stand ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice to save Christian, Muslim, and Jewish lives without distinction. Israel is undeniably unique and unparalleled. What other country’s daily actions are reported with such frequency and hyperbole by the international media? What other thriving democracy is juxtaposed with the Third Reich by the supposedly refined and dignified delegates of the world? Only a state for the Jews could merit such wanton attention and find itself in the cross hairs of seemingly every human rights activist in the world. Thus goes the curse of the Jewish people; forever facing scrutiny despite reclusiveness. Israel is the geographic manifestation of everything Jewry has faced. Surrounded by enemies, yet forever prevailing. Facing impossible odds, yet emerging victorious from every fight.
      What Israel means to me, is the rebirth of the Jewish people. No longer are we victimized, persecuted, and hounded without refuge. Israel serves as the shelter and eternal home of the Jewish people. It symbolizes all that was lost and found, cried over and celebrated, saved and destroyed across the precarious journey of the Jewish people until their return home. Israel provides for us what no other country would despite our pleas for help. As the tides of anti-Semitism swell threatening to engulf much of the world, Israel stands arms spread, ready to bring in the unwanted. It is not only a homeland in my mind, but in the collective heart of an entire people.