Wednesday, January 22, 2020

David versus Goliath Source:
David vs. Goliath, seen in a 13th century drawing by a Jew in France.

It seems like I’ve always had a bug about Israel. I’m not sure when it began. But I remember reading stories about Solomon and David, kings of Israel. These were chapter books in the Beth Shalom library in Squirrel Hill. They were tailored to very young children.
I wish I remembered the names of the author and titles of those books. I don’t. This is a very early almost sense memory of a book series I could not stop reading. I would be very sad if I went to the library and found that someone had already taken out those books. I would walk out of the library and back to Sunday school class, downcast and quiet.
Those stories made Jews into people the whole world looked to for counsel and advice. They made Jews wise and valiant. Heroes on the battlefield and champions of wisdom.
We were a warrior people. That is a key truth I absorbed early on about my personal history. I understood from this that Israel was something worth fighting and dying for. 
Israel shone like a gem in the time of Solomon and David. She was the prize for excellence as a people. A land with qualities and potentials never to be found elsewhere in all of the world. A land others would covet for eternity.
I felt the truth of these stories and their ancient wisdom, drawn from midrashim about the kings, with Israel as the backdrop. Even when served up in simplified language and embroidered with illustrations to make them digestible for children, these stories ignited in me a fire that has burned until now.
This was the Israel and the people with whom I fell in love. The Israel that made me hold my head back and my shoulders high. For if God gave the Jews this special place, it had to mean that we were a special people. We were truly fortunate in Israel.
I did not yet know the word “symbiosis" at the age of 7 or 8. But reading those storybooks, I understood that Israel and the Jewish people were intertwined and interdependent. Tied together, forever.
I absorbed the customs and the rituals of my people, learned the language and the culture. It was all of a piece: a part of the same dynamic. Every time I answered a question with a question, ate a bowl of chicken soup, or said the shema, I was strengthening and deepening the bond. There was a feeling, a passion about it all, and it was quite specific to being a part of the Jewish people of the Land of Israel. A people predating the birth of Mohammed. I breathed it all in through my pores and dreamed of leaving for Israel until I did more than dream. I made aliyah. I came to live in Israel.
When I think back on how the passion grew, how I am where I am today, I know it begins with stories of kings. It begins with a vision of the Jews as a fine wise warrior people. This is what made me catch fire for Israel, where I am today, 40 years and counting.
Every morning I wake up filled with joy to be in Israel. This is a deep happiness that has nothing to do with material wealth, or anything else, really. It’s a mindset, or perhaps more accurately a "heart" set: a case of Israel in the heart.

That is how it is with your first love.

My love of Israel is a love that begins with fairy tales of kings.

It has a beginning, but apparently no end.

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