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Kol HaChadoshot

What's news and 'nu' in the Beth David community

December 2018

When I travel, one of my interests is the exercise affectionately called Jewish Geography. I enjoy asking people where they are from, and then trying to find connections. This game is especially enjoyable for me in Israel; and while I was there a couple of weeks ago, I barely missed the chance. Virtually every person with whom I spoke in English and whose inflection sounded American got the same question from me. Where are you from? The answers during my recent trip were most commonly Efrat, Neve Daniel and Jerusalem. So then I probed further. From where did you make aliyah? Now the answers were different - Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and plenty of other American cities.
     Sitting on a bus on the way back to Efrat after a day of being a tourist in Jerusalem, I entertained a thought that had never before occurred to me. When these strangers told me that they were from these various Israeli cities and towns, they were telling me that they considered Israel home. Where they were born was not where they were from. The origins from where they immigrated were places they had once lived, but they were now Israelis. In every case, the choice to relocate to Israel was a conscious decision to identify with Jewish history, the Jewish state and Jewish destiny.
    My trip came as Chanukah was in the air. Gift shops, hardware stores and grocery stores were all selling Chanukiyot (holiday menorahs), boxes of pre-measured cuplets of olive oil in multitudes of colors and multiple sizes, holiday candles; and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) were for sale on street corners. Israel was more than the Jewish state, it was living Judaism. Of course it always is; but in the weeks leading up to holidays like Chanukah, it is a spirit and reality that is inescapable.
     Historically, the battles that led to the Maccabee victory and the establishment of Chanukah as a festival for all ages was, in essence, a war for the Jewish soul. For many of the "olim" that I met, the decision to move to Israel was a decision that was reflective of their Jewish souls. And now I understand why the people I met told me that they were from Efrat, Jerusalem and other Israeli communities. Israel was home. It may not have been where their lives began, but it is the place that means the most to them today.
    I will always remember well a telephone conversation that my wife and I shared with our daughter Talya as one of Israel's wars with a terrorist neighbor was erupting. We offered to purchase airline tickets to bring her family to Connecticut until after the hostilities came to an end. "Come home until things in Israel are safe again", we pleaded. Talya's answer was firm, "Israel is home, and I did not make 'aliyah' only to leave when the going gets tough". We were grateful, as was every Jew in the world,  when the war ended; and we were as proud of our daughter and her family's courage as we could possibly be. That was when I knew for sure that her "aliyah" had taken root in her soul.
    Chanukah as a holiday comes but once a year, yet every day is a new opportunity for a Jew to say "heneini" to Jewish responsibilities. From the strangers with whom I played Jewish Geography a few weeks ago I was reminded that home is where we park our values and there are no vacations from spiritual responsibilities.

Thu, December 13 2018 5 Tevet 5779