Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Passionate Yearning for Eretz Yisrael

by Jameel ... (cross-posted on DovBear and The Muqata)

Despite DovBear's assertion, one doesn't need to wear blue and white underwear, madly dance on Yom HaAtzmaut, or even hate Arabs to feel a passion for Eretz Yisrael.

I doubt that Rav Yehuda HaLevi met any of the above criteria, but without doubt his yearning for Zion and his spiritual craving for Eretz Yisrael burned deeply in his soul when he wrote "My heart is in the East, yet I am in the end of the West."

It's understandable that after 2000 years of exile this passionate spark is slightly dampened in so many. Where should it, where could it emerge from, burning brightly in this day and age to ignite the passion and pathos of "If I forget thee Jerusalem…if I forget you on my day of celebration?"

How many really have the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash on their minds when they have a day of celebration? As mortals, we can't imagine ourselves around the clock standing in front of our Creator – the human brain can't deal with it, and we seek additional metaphors to understand the G-d/human relationship – the
father/son one works best for me. Yet, there are many Jews in Israel and around the world, for which "If I forget three Jerusalem" is still a living part of their daily lives.

The posting a few days ago on DovBear's blog, "How Deep is your Faith?" challenged many of us – if the basis for our faith is unproven, then our actions need to be carefully measured when plotting the course of Israel, and a large dose of humility thrown in for good measure.

The Torah could not agree more; we are warned explicitly to be wary of the pitfalls of arrogant military supremacy, "Kochi v'Otzem Yadi Asa Li Et HaChayil HaZeh", that "our own strength and might did for us this army." As people of faith, we need to understand that at the end of the day, our military prowess, success or failure, comes from Divine Providence. For those of us with less faith, the importance of
morality and ethics is just as important.

It's interesting to see this symmetry in action over the past month – unquestionably, the fiercest and most dedicated fighters in the IDF emerged from two groups: the members of Kibbutzim and Moshavim, and those from the national-religious community.

Seemingly an odd combination after so many years of being told that "the secular have abandoned the country" – the secular, don't look for me in a shul, even on Yom Kippur, 'cause I'm eating my ham sandwich" kibbutznik, fought shoulder to shoulder in Lebanon with religious, kippa wearing, "don't throw anyone out of Gush Katif orange wrist banded" soldiers.

For the first time in many years, the common denominator between these 2 types of Jews was glaringly apparent. The homeland of the Jewish people needed defending, and both groups volunteered, with their lives, to protect it. The issue of whether or not we could logically prove our cause was totally irrelevant -- our homeland was under
attack, our soldiers kidnapped, and the vast majority of us realized inherently that we needed to fight back.

Clearly, those soldiers have a passion for Israel, yet from where does the lack of passion for Israel come from? DovBear appreciates Israel, will teach his children Hebrew, and cares about Israel – yet at the end of the day, wants to watch from America. XGH seemingly chides us to be humble in our fight for survival, apparently implying we need to tread lightly when defending ourselves [or building the land] as we end up "land grabbing", "occupying another people" and "bombing the Lebanese" based on an unproven faith, that we believe we should live in Israel. After all, how are we any different from Hizbolla?

Yet our quest to live in Israel, based on our faith, is no less valid a right than the existence of the United States through the principle of Manifest Destinty which founded the US. To even question a Jew's right to live in Israel and defend himself – while writing from the United States which was built upon the foundations of Manifest Destiny is to blatantly ignore history, and might I add, rather haughty and audacious. Or more succinctly, the pot calling the kettle black.

But I digress.

Passion for Israel is not necessarily rooted in nationalism…or blue and white…or kibbutz socialism… Personally, when I spent my first year in Yeshiva in Israel, I didn't have "the passion" at all. Yet, by the end of the year, a quick poll in my yeshiva showed that 99% of those who came for the year would be interested in staying…in some sort of framework…many even permanently.

What drives the passion? Why does spending time in Israel – either in yeshiva, seminary, kibbutz, college, or army – why does it usually evoke a passion for Israel? I spent a summer in England's Lake District, which as stunningly beautiful as it was, didn't ignite any passion within me to want to live there. I grew up in the United
States in a frum community that catered nicely to an Orthodox lifestyle: good Jewish schooling, Kosher food, an eruv (agreed to by most), shuls, a mikva, and a suburban surrounding of grass, trees, culture and little league – yet after a year in Israel, the US and my community lost it's appeal.

Eretz Yisrael offers something else, a connection to our past and future which was missing in the US. And not only from a religious perspective – I recently walked around Raanana and was amazed at the number of secular anglo olim at the Raanana municipal park. What brought them to Israel? Why are they ALSO here in Israel? And yet…they definitely have the passion as well.

I spent time in Northern Israel during the war this past month, and was astounded by the volunteering spirit and togetherness of Israel. Families in Cental Israel's upper middle class regions were hosting families from the North…Magen David Adom, Hatzala, the Fire Department, Auxiliary Police, social workers, all had volunteers swarming to help provide reinforcements…and the amounts of food donated for Shabbat meals for these volunteers was simply overwhelming. The feeling of unity and commonality in purpose as volunteers left their families to fight in Lebanon, to volunteer, to
help, to serve, to distribute food was without a doubt, one of our finest moments as a country. That politics and differences could be put aside for a common goal was heart warming.

And this feeling crossed the boundaries of Israel and could be felt everywhere across the globe, as concerned Jews – some with more faith, some with less – but all bound up with some difficult to prove or scientifically catalog – unity, helped reignite a passion for Israel.

It may not exist for everyone, but the longing for Israel, the passion for Zion is bound up within the spiritualiy of Judiasm. It's there – so many people felt it over the past month – impossible to explain, but I would bet dollars to donuts that many, many of you reading this posting, know exactly what I'm writing about. XGH and DovBear may scoff and dismiss this posting – it's unscientific, not provable, maybe even G-d forbid just the messianic rantings of a fanatical settler.

Yet I still believe that majority of the readership here felt the stirring of the passion for Eretz Yisrael over the past month…the longing for Zion…and the unity of our people emerged with a clarity that had been missing for a long time.

It may be intangible, yet the passion for Eretz Yisrael still lives on in our people.

In our heart of hearts, the vast majority of us know it to be true.

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