I came here by choice!

Last week the Prime Minister came to our town here in the ancient land of Ephraim, the modern Benyamin Region. The preparations started days before and, well, I can't tell you all that went on, because maybe something in our country is still secret, and maybe one of those secrets is how the intended destination of a prime ministerial visit is specially prepared. Heck – I don't know everything that went on, either!
Was it exciting – all the preparations, security shtick, the lights, cameras and eventually action? You bet it was! Just think back, historically, not so long ago, when a Jewish community would prepare for a rare visit by the King, the Sultan's representative, or some minister from a foreign government that ruled over us in the exile. Then too, there were preparations, cleaning, excitement and what-not – especially what-not – and for whom? For some strange minister in a strange land, who even if he wasn't up to no-good against the Jews we'd be hard-pressed to prove that he was up to any yes-good. All that preparation, excitement and aggravation for a foreign dignitary, while our own dignity was still under the yolk of foreign rule. So this time – preparing for the visit of our very own Prime Minister of our very own Jewish state of Israel – it was truly a worth-while reason for excitement, something generations could only dream about!
Over twenty years ago, on a visit to Chicago, I spoke at a synagogue, and someone asked: "When the prime minister of Israel (then Yitzchak Rabin) comes for an official visit – can we demonstrate against him?" Today there are Jews in the U.S. who take the positive answer for granted, but I answered something different altogether.
"No! Definitely not! You want to demonstrate against the prime minister of Israel? Move to Israel! Then you can demonstrate all you want – within limits of good taste and with care not to intrinsically do harm to national unity, which is important above and beyond the differences between different parties. But in the U.S. – no way! When the prime minister visits anywhere in the world he's not a private individual, he doesn't represent himself or his party and coalition. The prime minister of Israel represents the state of Israel! He or she represents the Jewish people's sovereign state, and being a Jew - you can't demonstrate against the Jewish state!"
So it was definitely a truly deep honor to have the prime minister visit.
With all that – there's one thing I would like to say. The prime minister told the story of his grandfather, Yonatan, a yeshiva student in Volozhin, standing at a train station with his brother, when a mob came looking for a Jew for batting practice – even though they didn't know what baseball was. Yonantan told the brother to run while he "held off" the mob, meaning that he'd take the beating while his brother escapes. Yonatan was indeed beaten to within an inch of his life, but before passing out he made a solemn promise to himself: if he'd survive he'd move to the Land of Israel.
A moving story, no doubt. But then the p.m. said that he was born here in Israel, thanks to his grandfather's decision to stop taking beatings in Europe, but rather to move to his own homeland here. Then the p.m said to the assembly: "You're all here because your grandfathers decided to stop getting beat up in the exile and instead to come to a Jewish state where we can defend ourselves!"
The delivery was excellent, the listeners applauded.
Except for me. I wanted to yell out: "Hey! No way! I came back home to our Holy Land by choice! I hadn't suffered from anti-Semitism in Chicago, I wasn't beat up (of course I stayed out of certain neighborhoods, but in my day that was true not just for Jews…), and even the kid who called me a "dirty Jew!" was Jewish himself! I came here not to hide from a beating, from uncomfortable stares or smirks at my kippah. I came here to be part of a wondrous process: the redemption of the Jewish nation – the resurrection of our sovereignty, our land, our language, our army – and eventually all of our spiritual potential, here in the Holy Land, the land of great dreams, the land of wonderful prophecy".
Of course I didn't shout out loud anything when the p.m. was visiting us, out of a deep respect for the office of the prime minister of the Jewish state of Israel. I don't blame the p.m. for the the content of that message - there are too many in Israel, on the left, right and center, who think in the same way, that the Jewish people have no choice. But that's not true - we're really here by choice!! That's why I've shouted this out loud… here.