Tuesday August 2, 2016
Summer is raging in Israel. And that is a good thing. I love the summer months. I love the heat, the sun, the warm air enveloping me and reminding me how beautiful this country is. I walk out of my house in the morning and see the sun shining and it makes me smile. It doesn’t matter that later on in the day the sun will burn so strong that just a few minutes under its fierce rays will send me running for shade. For me, as long as the sun is shining, the world is smiling.
As children, we loved summer because it meant school holidays. Not only were we able to sleep in, but we filled our days with lazy hours at the pool, bike-riding, social gatherings, baseball and volleyball games. When my own children were young, the challenge of keeping them occupied, especially when I was working, was difficult indeed, but I still loved summer. I loved the spirit of relaxation and relished the extra time I had with my children.
Today, my children are all grown and thank G-d, we have two gorgeous grandchildren as well. Two of my sons are teachers and still enjoy summer holidays even as adults. But as a family, ever since the children were very young, we set aside a week each summer to go on vacation together somewhere in the north of Israel. And it is always a highlight of our year.
In a few weeks, we are all going up north to Shear Yashuv, a lovely moshav in
the Upper Galilee. We will rent a few bungalows and spend 4 days just enjoying each other’s company. We will hike, wade through flowing streams, ride bikes, have a Barbecue. My sons are planning a very challenging hike together while my husband and I help our daughters-in-law watch the children. The “girls” and I will go out to lunch together. After the men finish morning services in the synagogue, they will stop at the local grocery and pick up fresh rolls, cheeses, yogurts and cereal and we will enjoy a relaxed breakfast together on a picnic table outside our bungalows. Heaven on earth!
When I look back on the 32 years since Ed and I made aliyah and I see my children and grandchildren surrounding me, enjoying each other’s company and reveling in the beauty of the Land of Israel, I realize that this is what it is all about. When G-d promised the land to Abraham in Genesis 12, it was not a national promise. It was a family promise. G-d told Abraham: I will give this land to your children. (Genesis 12:7). Centuries later, those children would become a nation but first and foremost, the land was promised to the children of Abraham. And G-d later clarified that this promise would descend only through Isaac and Jacob.
When the Children of Israel went down to Egypt, they were a family of Jacob’s descendants. It was Pharaoh who first referred to them as a nation, while they were still in Egypt. (Exodus 1:9) But it was only after they left Egypt that they became the nation of G-d: A kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6). But when we meet the Nation of Israel in the beginning of the Book of Numbers, we find them categorized by family: “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses” (Numbers 1:2).
When Ed and I made Aliyah we had two small sons, one 2 years and one 4 months. We wanted to move to Israel because we believed it is where Jewish destiny was taking us. We believed and still believe that G-d has begun our redemption, as prophesied in the Bible and we wanted to follow His lead and take the step we knew He wanted us to take. But we also looked forward to having a family in Israel, to having babies and raising our children in the land of our forefathers. We saw ourselves as a direct continuation of the generations of Jews who went before us, who yearned for this land but could not reach it. We saw ourselves as reversing the curse of Jewish history and looking forward, even as we vowed never to forget our past. And we felt that the family we were going to raise would be a vital part of the foundation of our nation.
Each summer, we look back in sadness and look forward in joy. The 9th of Av, which marks the destruction of both the first and second Temples of ancient Israel, always falls in the middle of the summer. It is almost as if the scorching sun reminds us of the roaring flames that destroyed both Temples. But then, immediately following that day of fasting and mourning, we feel released. Unlike previous generations when the fast day brought home centuries of suffering and exile that continued to plague our people, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the day has taken on new meaning.
I believe that as long as we have not reached the final redemption, as long as we are still surrounded by enemies and suffer war, terrorism, anti-Semitism and de-legitimization, we have still not completely reversed the scourge of destruction. And for that reason, we fast and mourn and remember, experiencing the tragedies that befell our people for close to 2,000 years. But when that day is over, the time is ripe for rejoicing, for going out into the beautiful spaces in the Land, of wading through the cold water streams, sitting under the fig trees and enjoying the breezes, playing with our children and grandchildren and thanking G-d for all He has bestowed upon us.
We are the generation that G-d has blessed to witness the fulfillment of His prophecies. “In that day declares the Lord of Hosts—you will be inviting each other to the shade of vines and fig trees” (Zechariah 3:10). “Thus said the Lord of Hosts: There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their
great age. And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares” (Zechariah 8:4-5). “Thus said the Lord of Hosts: I will rescue My people from the lands of the east and from the lands of the west and I will bring them home to dwell in Jerusalem. They shall be My people and I will be their G-d—in truth and sincerity.” (Zechariah 8:7-8).
Shalom from Judea and Samaria,
Director of CFOIC’s Israel Office