Israel – the story of all of us
By Justin Amler
A lot of people in the world think of Israel as a country in the Middle East. If they can find it on a map, they’d see it lies nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arab world. And that’s true. Kind of.
But that’s just a part of the story – because while Israel is a country, it’s also a whole lot more. It’s more than just the sand you feel between the toes, while walking on the beach. It’s more than just the breeze that blows in from the ocean, ruffling your hair. It’s more than just the rocky crevices of the Judean desert.
It’s more than all these things, because in Israel lies the story of all of us.
The State of Israel might only be 67 years old, but the Land of Israel is thousands of years more and throughout history, Israel has always been a unifying factor among Jews world-wide. Even during our 2000 year old exile, where so many Jews were living outside its borders, it was never forgotten and always remained a cornerstone of our existence – in our hearts and in our minds and in our spirits. We turned towards Jerusalem in our prayers – and still do today. We longed for it – for many reasons, some that seemed crazy, insane and mad. We dreamt of somehow controlling our own destiny once again – of not being subject to the whims and changing attitudes of leaders who with a casual flick of a pen would condemn us to misery and pain and death.
But throughout these troubled times of exile, we always looked up towards Israel – the place that our souls continued to yearn for. Israel represented, and still does, the best in all of us. In it lies our hopes for the future, our dreams of peace, our sanctuary against war, our goals and desires to achieve as much as we can and truly be all we can be – free of fear and persecution and hate.
Copyright © Miriam Young
But it’s also our birthright – our small little piece of this earth, a place which is truly ours, where we belong and a place we can call home. Many are trying to take that away, but there is no expiry date on this right of ours, for this birthright has been branded into our very souls. In the past the physical land of Israel has been ripped from our desperate grasps against our will, but the spiritual land is and always has been safe and secure and there is no force on this earth that can remove it. It is a part of us, as much as our feet and our arms and our hearts that beat passionately for it. And when you walk in the land of Israel, you are not just breathing in the salt water vapours of the Mediterranean Sea, or the smells of a hundred different cultures – you’re breathing in the history of the Jewish people.
Such is our symbiotic relationship that there is no Israel without the Jews and there are no Jews without Israel – and the spiritual land of Israel has always sustained the Jewish people throughout our long history, because its founding stones were not just the earth and the granite and the marble, but were also the blood, and the tears, and the sweat, and the love and the faith and the devotion and the commitment.
Israel is empowered, not just by the wind and the sun, but by the souls of every Jew who has ever lived and walked on this earth – and every Jew who ever will.
Israel is the story of us – of where we come from, where we are and where we’re going. It is forever intertwined within, making it every bit a part of our future as well as our past – a pillar of our Jewish life. And it’s a story not just of pain and suffering and heartache and loss, but also one of triumph and joy and redemption. It is our light-house that guides us in a world of stormy seas and rough waters where the hailstones pelt down around us, against a canvass of darkness.
So when those around the world slander it, we will take it personally, because it is personal. When we talk of Israel, we don’t just talk about borders and lines and numbers, because Israel is not just a Wikipedia entry. We talk about it with emotion and with passion and with love and with feeling.
The State of Israel, like us, is not a perfect country, but which country is? Those imperfections are not the hallmark of a country gone wrong, but are instead the hallmarks of a country that is living and breathing and dynamic with a desire to always, always improve.
Jews should feel exceptionally lucky in this world, because whatever disaster might befall our people, such as the tragedy of the refugees we are witnessing today, our country of Israel – the only Jewish one in the world, will never abandon us and reject us no matter our background, no matter where we’re from and no matter the cost or the burden.
And that is also why, although Israel has citizens of all religions with full rights – as they should rightly have, it remains undeniably a Jewish country with a Jewish spirit – and must always remain so.
Israel is the story of all of us – and it always has been. It is our physical and spiritual home. And the years apart did not cause that link to sever. Time did not cause our memories to fade. Conflict did not cause us to grow weary. Distance did not weaken our hold. And the constant bombardment from those opposed to our existence, did not cause our resolve to shake or to shudder – because our grip is strong and will never be loosened again.
Israel is the living proof that no task – no matter how daunting – is unachievable. And no obstacle, no matter how high, cannot be overcome.
When we say Am Yisrael Chai, we don’t just mean that the nation of Israel lives for this time – we mean that the nation of Israel lives for all time.
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is a regular contributor to international publications, including the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Justin is also a valued Israel Forever blogger, writing about his connection to the Jewish state. You can reach Justin on Twitter, Facebook and through Google+.