I was anxious with anticipation as I made my way to Israel. The journey through the hills and valleys of Jordan was stunning- verdant green and covered in olive trees. My shared taxi descended to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, and I cleared Jordanian customs. After I took a bus across the border, and I saw the symbol of my people flying proudly in the desert. My heart fluttered like the blue-and-white flag in the desert winds, and I sang "hatikvah" to myself.
Even if I were more eloquent, even if my pen was more obedient, even if my words did glow, I would be incapable of describing the sensation, when after 5 months of exhausting journey through lands foreign to me, after 4 years of absence, I made my accent to Jerusalem and spied her ancient walls. Of the 75 cities I have visited in my travels, none are more special or moving than golden Jerusalem. In the words of Amin Ma'alouf, in the book Leo Africanus, "Holy city, but full of impieties; idle city, but one which gives the world a masterpiece everyday."
I took the bus from the border to Jerusalem and trudged my way to the Jaffa gate, where I made my triumphant entrance. Only slightly less triumphant than Allenby himself, cause he didn't have to lug a 22 kilo sack. I wandered through the alleyways I know so well, and went directly to the Kotel. I went straight up to the wall, bag and all, took off my hat and put my head against the cold wall that is the last remnants of our holy temple. I was literally trembling as I said my prayers. While I was praying, a bird's white feather landed at my feet. I collected it and finished my prayers.
It has been nearly 4 years since I was last in Israel. Almost 3 of those years, I was honored with privilege of speaking and writing on her behalf; of promoting her wonders, her achievements and her diversity; of ardently defending her during her travails.
My words fail me because my emotions on returning are far too plentiful. I have joyously returned to the land of my forefathers. I return to a land where I have friends like family. A place where I constantly discover family that I never knew I had- family from the "old country." I return to a land where the people always amaze me with their joie de vivre, their joy in life. For a land tarred in the media as a war zone, I am always so amazed that so many still leave their front doors unlocked at night- something I would never dream of in America. It is a land where I hold no citizenship, but I am always one of its people.
As I welcomed my first Shabbat back in Israel, as I watched the night fall like a benediction over the eternal capital of our eternal people, all I could think of was the blessing that my father recites over his children each Sabbath and pray the same for Israel:
"May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine his countenance upon you. May the Lord be gracious unto you and grant you peace."
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