"I have Lake Kinneret" wrote the poet, and no beautiful lake in Norway can spark such emotion. And we have the Hermon, the Carmel and the Tabor mountains; we have the sea, the Jordan Valley, the desert and mounts of Hamoria, Gerizim and Ebal. Thousands of years of yearning are seared in our genetic code.
To Israeli-born "sabras," the Land of Israel is taken for granted. Yet I, who spent my childhood in a foreign country, feel fortunate every day for being able to build my home and to plant my garden in Hebron, as cited in the prophecy of Amos.
"I will bring back my exiled people to Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit."
There is only one country in the world, and one people throughout history who have experienced such a thing. Juxtaposed to this, all the governments' mishaps are dwarfed.
Sense of belonging
On Yom Kippur we prayed together at the Ashkenazi synagogue – born Israelis, immigrants from Europe and Africa, and the sons of the Menashe Tribe from the Burmese-Indian border. On my way there I passed by Yemenite and Moroccan synagogues. And while standing in the queue at the national health clinic I witnessed how Jeremiah's words came true:
"Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the uttermost parts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her who travails with child together: a great company shall they return here."
For better or for worse, and despite the abundance of travails, the state is realizing the supreme vision of return, which constitutes our power and renewal.
We live here freely as one large Jewish family; we experience love and devotion coupled with anxiety and even hatred. Perhaps because we care so much. Because in a place with no sense of belonging there is apathy.
Our society is demanding and coarse. Yet despite this, I would not exchange the warmth, the empathy and the solidarity with the mechanical smiles and cold manners of the West.
It is only here that Hebrew letters adorn tombstones and synagogues. And there is only one passport that bears the Jewish Menorah. And where else would you find the following words by Shai Agnon imprinted on a 50 Shekel banknote:
"As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem."
It is only in this country where Jews are the proprietors, and this home is the State of Israel.
The Land of Israel, the gathering of the peoples of Israel from the Diaspora and the Jewish togetherness seem natural, like the air, water and earth beneath our feet, but these are the really important things.
There is so much grudge, but let's not forget even for a moment what we have. And that we won't have to, heaven forbid, recall one day what we once had and no longer do. It already happened in the past.