The amazing thing about actually living in Israel, is that even the simplest daily activities are sometimes infused with so much meaning. Let me give you an example.
I was going to get a haircut. My hairdresser is in Ramat Gan, which means I have to take a bus from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. So I go. And as I’m walking through the doors of the bus station, I see so many young soldiers in uniform, men and women. And they’re walking in with their heavy backpacks, probably after a day or a few hours of home leave. One girl was so petite, and her rucksack was so big, they were almost the same size. But there she was, strong, resilient, schlepping it without even a sign of effort. And the young men, so tall and slim and handsome. And every one of them has got either a rifle or a pistol in a gun belt. And I’m thinking: no I’m not worried about terrorists. Not at all. Not with all these big, handsome, intelligent, trained Jewish kids all around me.
And I thought about where each of them had come from. Their grandparents – no matter their background – had run away from places all over the world. If they were from Arab lands, they’d been persecuted and robbed of all their property before making their way to Israel. If they were from Europe, they were probably the only member of their entire family to survive. And here was the third generation: strong, fearless, armed. These kids, I thought, have made it possible to live in a country where if you wear a skullcap or a Jewish star, you don’t have to worry about being beaten up or murdered. They have made it possible to own things – houses, land, businesses – without worrying that the anti-Semites will come to power and take everything away. They have made it possible to bring up a new generation of Jewish children who know what it is to have their own country, their own army, their democratically elected government.
My hairdresser is a new immigrant from Paris who fled the worsening situation there, where Jews are blown up in supermarkets, and thrown out of their windows by their Muslim neighbors. She doesn’t understand why all French Jews don’t pick themselves up and come. She is very spiritual, and often tells me about the rabbis whose lectures she attends. She has opened up her own little shop on a pleasant little street across from a beautiful park. She is happy.
Each day, every day, if you live in Israel, the people you come into contact with are the living continuation of Jewish history, the end of a long, sometimes desperate, path taken which ended after many, many struggles in rest and peace. A whole country filled with people like that, so that when you think about it, it has to fill your heart to the brim and bring tears to your eyes and a prayer of thanksgiving to your lips that you have the great privilege of participating and witnessing this miracle of our time.
How wonderful to be a Jew at this time in history. I thank the tall young air force officer and the tiny girl schlepping her enormous sack. Each in their own way continues to make this miracle possible.
I love you all.