With Love and Gratitude
M. Burg, an Olah living in the center of Israel, is grateful and joyous to be living in her homeland
From the moment the Pesach dishes are stored away, the wind starts to shift. At first, it is barely noticeable. As the pantry is being restocked, the wind picks up speed and, with time, it goes for broke.
It all starts with the siren, reminiscent of shofar blowing in springtime. We stand in silence, millions and millions of us, on the streets, next to our cars, in our schools and places of work. We memorialize those who died al kiddush Hashem. In those two minutes of silence, we say a heartfelt prayer for our brethren snuffed out by the Nazis and ponder what it means to be a Jew.
A week passes and there are winds of change. Once again, stores are closed, eateries have shuttered their businesses. We fall silent for the men and women whom fought so bravely for our country and were killed. We stand in unity in memory of the kedoshim who were taken from us in terrorist attacks. The air is so thick. We’re in the midst of it and there’s nowhere to hide. It is right in front of our faces but we are willing participants as that is the price you pay for living here.
With tears in our eyes, we read and listen to stories of lives of special emissaries brought down to this earth to teach us what it means to be a Jew. All too often we are overwrought with sadness and grieving. We hear the pain of those left behind but are comforted somewhat by their message of emunah and strength.
Then, once again, the winds changes course. We are out with our friends and relatives singing Hallel as we congregate in our shuls to give voice to our happiness and thankfulness to Hashem for the blessings of our land. We breathe in the air of sizzling barbeques and fly our flag at the highest point the eye can see.
And so it is, year in and year out. It never gets tiresome. It comes like a wave; slowly but surely as it gains momentum until the peak; then crashing down only to rise up again in a different form. It is a time of true reflection for each and every person who feels the winds blow. A time to rekindle our love for the country we tied our destiny to.
To my dear parents; the narrative in your lives didn’t include a child moving to Israel. Your preference would have been for me to live close by, to enjoy the warm and close relationship from within the same time zone. It was not meant to be. The winds carried me, far, far away from you but with Hashem’s guidance, I was set down in the place we all call home. Over a quarter of a century has passed, separated by thousands of miles, but that will never change the love I have for you. This has been a journey, not just of one individual, rather, a continuation of the story of the Jewish people throughout our history. Generations of our people prayed facing Yerushalayim with yearning in their hearts to breathe the air of the Holy Land. Every time I daven or say Birkat HaMazon, I am reminded why I made the decision to live here. It was not to run away, but to run towards. It was the culmination of my love of Hashem and His Torah. It is the feeling I get when the Shabbos siren goes off and together, with the silence on the streets, we breathe in the holy air. It is hearing the beautiful and powerful Hebrew language come alive and actually understand what is being said. It is the way the bus driver or cashier wishes you a chag sameach while flashing a smile that makes you feel part of their lives. It embodies a million different tales of ‘amcha’ – the way we live in our homeland. It is to be privy to the ‘only in Israel’ stories that truly only happen in Eretz Yisrael. It is me; my life, my values, my people and my land. It is the legacy I have chosen to give my children. It is truth and purity.
Mom and Dad, even though you did not make this as a personal journey, you are on this ride with me. Your descendants live and breathe the holy air and speak in their ancestral language. My story is the vision of Avraham Aveinu when Hashem said to him ‘Lech lecha’. It is the narrative of the Jewish people given the opportunity after 2000 years to come home. There is endless joy in residing here. I am blessed to have blossomed in the years of living amongst my own people. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
During your visits, when we travel this land together, you too see the beauty that surrounds us. I know you are proud of me as you tell me often, and I am grateful. Please remember my love for you continues albeit from afar.
When the wind blows, one never knows what it is going to pick up along the way. It is my true desire, im yirzeh Hashem that you, our family and all of Am Yisrael will join us.
With all my love and gratitude,