Keep Dreaming: Of tents and tabernacles and coming home

Reflections on the release of an ordinary hero, Gilad Schalit.

tears 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
tears 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
How goodly are thy tents
How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,
Thy tabernacles, O Israel!
How large is thy tent, O Jacob?
How expansive thy tabernacle, O Israel?
Who shall be ushered in?
And who shall be excluded?
Is there room for those who have settled on J Street?
Shall they be welcomed?
Is there a place for those who reside in Judea and Samaria?
Shall they be given entry?
Those who would tolerate but a single state
between the Jordan and the Great Sea
And those who would cheerfully withdraw
from territories long possessed
Those who raised the Zionist flag
tired of waiting for a God who abandoned His people
And those who recognize the return to Zion as the beginning of our redemption
Those who defend Israel blindly
And those whose love of Israel has not blinded them
Those who demand security before peace
And those who seek peace now
Those who would divide Jerusalem
And those who would sooner see their right hand wither.
Shall they be ushered in?
Shall they be welcomed?
Thy tent, O Jacob, is the tent of Noam
Thy tabernacle, O Israel, the tabernacle of Aviva
And the gatekeeper asks only this:
Did you rejoice in Gilad’s release?
Did you feel pride in his return?
Did you wipe a tear from your eye?

Lech lecha
Go forth
from thy country
from the place where thou wast born
from thy father’s house
to the land that I will show thee
and I will make of thee a great nation
and I will bless thee and make thy name great and through thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
But it will take time
and first thy offspring shall be tried
and the children of Israel shall be called upon
to defend their borders
and many will not return
and their memory shall be for a blessing
and one shall be taken hostage
and his anguish and that of his family shall remain continuously
in the memory of thy people who shall unite as one in calling for his deliverance
and their prayers shall be answered.
And the child whom you love
every child
bound to the altar of Zion
shall be redeemed
and go forth
to his country
to the place where he was born
to his father’s house
and to his mother’s embrace
and thy people shall rejoice
and I will know that I have made of thee a great nation.
May it please you to join us in our tabernacle
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Gilad
For five years we wished to welcome you
but you tarried
and without you
the festival of our joyfulness
was never replete with joy.
For seven days we sat in our frail booths
your absence epitomizing the frailty of life
For more than 700 your family sat immovable in theirs
their presence epitomizing the immovability of hope.
Generation after generation
we hastily constructed these dwelling places of wanderers
reminding us of bygone days of homelessness
But now you have returned unto us
and again we can rejoice in our season of joyfulness
for you have reminded us of the miracle of our homecoming
and the joy of coming home.
A Jewish State and the State of the Jewish people
Two and a half years ago, I published a column entitled, “What does Gilad Schalit have to do with you?” The answer I gave was simple: “Nothing more than a willingness to put his life on the line for the well-being of Jews everywhere.” I urged Jews around the world to do everything they could to press for his release. Truth be told, I wasn’t so sure that their efforts would have any practical effect but I was adamant that “when he gets back home, he should know that his willingness was appreciated.”
To facilitate expression of that appreciation, the World Zionist Organization established a virtual tent on Facebook alongside the real one that Gilad’s family had pitched on the doorstep of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Within hours, thousands from around the world had “stopped by” and left messages of support for him and his family. Indeed, Diaspora Jewry’s expression of solidarity with Gilad continued unabated throughout his nearly five and a half years of captivity. Not surprisingly his release was marked with festive rejoicing throughout the global Jewish village.
While this spontaneous outpouring of delight might have been expected, it should not be taken for granted. Much has been made of the values that impacted on Israel’s decision to exchange a single soldier for more than a thousand terrorists – a decision that has been hailed as evidence of our indeed being a Jewish State. The engagement of Jews everywhere throughout this ordeal is confirmation that we are also very much the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Welcome home, Gilad. Thank you for reminding us that we are one. And for affirming that there is indeed reason to keep dreaming.

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the executive of The Jewish Agency.