The Conspiracy

Israel for the first time

http://newvoices.org/2010/02/25/israel-for-the-first-time/

One of the most exciting events, and a personal favorite of mine, is seeing Jews arrive in Israel for the first time.   Before they arrive in Israel they brew up high expectations that cause them terrible excitement.  Therefore, they are generally overcome by  emotion when they do arrive in Israel.  I have only hazy memories of my first time in Israel about 6 years ago.  I remember the feelings: the excitement, the happiness and the consciousness of belonging.   I  knew that I was somewhere special.  I remembered my sister telling me she had kissed the ground, the “holy ground,” when she arrived at the airport.  This airport was different than any other I had been to despite its illusion of looking the same.

Welcome to Israel!

Welcome to Israel!

This week has been very special to me because my parents are visiting Israel for the first time.  For weeks now I have been getting excited; they finally get to share my passion for the land and they finally get to understand my love for it and why I’d want to live here, away from family and friends.  Therefore, their first experience in Israel has also provided me with a great experience; I’ve gotten the opportunity to follow them around while they see everything for the first time.   Right off the bat their journey began with excitement and bewilderment.   My dad was initially impressed by Ben-Guirion airport: “It’s so new and nice,” he said. Then they couldn’t get over the “hot” weather (they just came from freezing Toronto), and my mom couldn’t believe that there were orange and palm trees growing right outside the airport!

As we rode from the airport to Jerusalem, our first destination spot, my parents were amazed at the Hebrew writing on all the signs, the Israeli flags, the amount of Kosher restaurants and all the religious Jews.  She kept asking me, “so you can eat in that restaurant? and that one?”, amazed at all the kosher choices.  As we continued our drive, Jerusalem of gold appeared before us and my mom whispered,  “I’m home, I’m finally home”.  This is the feeling I’m looking for: the unleashing of pure emotion and the admittance that this land has so much potential and that it’s ours to fulfill.  This feeling is not unique; everyday Jews arrive in Israel with a feeling that this land is theirs, even as their first foot touches the ground.  I too have always felt this way, and it is this feeling that has led me down the path of Aliyah.  The feeling is perpetuated and encouraged by the law here that necessitates that all Jews can call this their home and gain citizenship.

It’s incredibly interesting that those in the Diaspora put all this incredible weight and importance on Israel.  It is the supposed center of Jewish life; its beating heart.  Yet, what is it?  It’s just another piece of land, with holy sites, water, desert and mountains.  Yet we are determined to infuse it with the upmost meaning.  This isn’t just amoutain, it’s a Judean mountain- a mountain that the Torah refers to, the mountain that our ancestors feet have treaded.  It’s steeped in history, religion and culture.  I find this idea of ownership incredibly interesting because it implies not only that this is my land, but what this land means.

While I’ve been living in Israel, I’ve lost this incredible “dazedness” with the miracle of this land.  I’ve forgetten how lucky I am that it’s so easy to keep Shabbat here, that the weather is beautiful, that there are so many options for Kosher restaurants and that this land is rich in holy sites and beauty.  I forget that it’s also mine, with or without passport, only because I’m a Jew.  I suppose it takes someone else to arrive to  regain that emotion that I once had when I came to this land.  Sometimes the novelty of a Jewish land rubs off or fades away, and it takes someone new to remind me how lucky I am to be living here.   While I never forget the many problems that Israel has, and the road it has laid in front of it in order to improve itself, this doesn’t negate my Zionist feelings that this is the Jewish homeland and that there is much to be proud of for this.

Hailey Dilman is a MASA participant, participating in Oranim’s Community Involvement Program, one of Masa Israel’s 160 programs.

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