By: Hillary Schulman
When I was twelve, I was given the privilege and opportunity of having my Bat Mitzvah in Israel atop Masada. My Torah portion then was Parshat Eikev, which was the very portion we read two weekends ago. I paraphrase that if we heed G-d’s commandments, we will flourish in the Land of milk and honey.
Whenever this parsha is read, I envision my whole family standing behind me as I read about the mitzvot I was responsible for once I became a Bat Mitzvah and how the Israelites will be prosperous in the Land that was promised to them.
And when we read this portion two weeks ago reading it was no different. The same memories of my family came to mind though the Torah portion seemed more poignant than ever. In the wake of everything that’s going on abroad, I have very consciously kept my stance on the current situation in Israel silent, but now, and rather proudly, too, I know it is important to share:
Israel is a fantastic place – its people, its culture, the geography, the history. It also trains an army that upholds the highest of moral codes. It is a place, a space, a home that evokes deep emotion from even the most guarded among us. The creation of this Land is really incredible, and I stand with Israel in all ways, with whatever decisions are made for the good of the Land and its people – our people. I believe in its right to exist and defend itself, and I feel incredibly helpless as my friends, my family are incessantly in jeopardy to do what is just and right for the country, for our Land.
I participated in Birthright during my sophomore year of college, and I again went to the top of Masada. I stood in the very spot where I had become a Bat Mitzvah, and I was bombarded by a range of emotions: nostalgia, sheer joy and elation, an overwhelming sense of pride, and even a little bit of anger. I missed how I felt on that trip but was grateful that I was able to understand more of my surroundings. I was angry with myself, too. I had taken my earlier trips for granted but was indebted by the opportunity to experience Israel once again, this time in the way it should be experienced.
It wasn’t until that trip that I felt so unbelievably connected to Israel and its people, my people. I felt like I was home again even though thousands of miles away from my actual home. There were no threats of rockets, no dangers we were constantly running from. There was peace and quiet and calm, and we all felt incredibly safe. The soldiers on my trip were just people with a great deal of passion. Some have since become very good friends of mine. I never imagined that they would endure the goings-on of today.
I consistently reach out to these friends and to other family of mine living in Israel. I need to know they are safe. I suppose that is as much as I can do for now. And I can pray. So I do. I pray that Israel will once again be the Land flowing with milk and honey, and will continue to be a safe haven for Jews around the world who long for a homeland just as we all do.