By Samantha Vinokor
As Israel dominates the media, occupies 100% of my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and is the topic of countless conversations, all of them center around an Israel of conflict, of fear, of terror.
It’s not my Israel.
My Israel is a place where the hottest days in the desert give way to the coldest nights, where the brilliance of the sunset is equal to the endless stars in the sky.
It’s a place where lines are non-existent, but where after hip-checking your out of the way in a mad dash to get on a bus, the same person will help you up and invite you over for Shabbat dinner.
My Israel is a place with countless examples of natural beauty, from the lush greenery of the North to the stark beauty of the desert, from the rolling mountains to the coast and the sea.
It’s a place of contradiction, where you can go to a seafood restaurant on Passover that advertises itself as kosher for Pesach, because while the menu is full of shrimp and scallops, they’ve gotten rid of all of the bread for the week – and, everyone thinks this makes sense.
It’s where the dichotomy of partying, fun loving Tel Aviv and historical, spiritual Jerusalem doesn’t seem odd, and indeed, it’s the individual spirits of those two polar opposite cities that make Israel the beautifully complex place that I love.
My Israel is where I learned to be proud of my people, where I fell in love with a land, a dream, and a nation.
It’s where you should never gossip, because inevitably everyone is connected in some crazy Jewish geography-esque way, but you can’t help it, because everyone from the cab drivers to the waiters to the strangers on the street wants to talk.
My Israel is where I can lay on the beach all day and feel at home, where I know that this land is mine, these people are mine, and we’re all connected.
It’s where, when I fall in Jerusalem because the stones are so smooth that they’re completely devoid of traction, it’s okay, because I can take a moment and realize that the reason they’re so smooth is because my people, our people, have been walking on these same stones for thousands of years.
My Israel is one that I associate with family, with my savta, with my abba, and with larger than life ancestors stretching back through time.
It’s a place where the biggest fights SHOULD be over which hummus place is the best, and which Tel Aviv juice bar makes the best smoothies SHOULD win everything.
It’s a place where the only sirens that should be heard over Jerusalem are the mingling of the Shabbat siren, the muezzin in the mosques, and the ringing of church bells. And where the only fear in Tel Aviv should be not getting a good spot on the beach, or in the hottest restaurant.
My Israel is one where the soldiers are beautiful in their uniforms, but too young to shoulder that burden, yet they’re proud to do so, and it’s an inspiration.
It’s a place of initiative, of not accepting no for an answer, where everything is possible, and all can be accomplished.
My Israel is a place where passions run high, constantly, where every issue is up for debate, where anything can warrant a protest or a strike, and where in spite of all the chaos, everyone can laugh.
It’s a place that needs a lot of work, that needs to be improved, but that is conscious of this, and wants to do the right thing.
It’s not perfect, and it’s not meant to be, but idealists from every stream of thought and belief are working towards that goal every day.