I became a Zionist at the age of 13. My parents had always been Zionists in a typical American way. They loved Israel, went to every emergency meeting about Israel, and they gave generously to Israeli causes. Whatever they could do for Israel from the comfort of Cleveland, Ohio, they did.
I arrived in Israel in September 1975 to spend the year studying Bible in Jerusalem. I had been an active member of the Bnei Akiva Zionist youth movement in high school and we were encouraged to spend the year following high school graduation in Israel, to perfect our knowledge of Hebrew, to absorb the culture and deepen our roots to our land. In this way, we would strengthen our resolve to move to Israel as adults.
Today is Election Day in Israel. Normally this would be a joyful occasion as people generally feel privileged to cast their votes for their preferred candidate—an important vehicle for the ordinary citizen to make his or her voice heard. And yet, this time, the fifth election in three years, the attitude is quite different.
Tonight begins Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We will eat a simple but festive meal in late afternoon and then, just before sunset, the 25 hour long fast will begin. This is the culmination of the 10 Days of Repentance that begin with the first day of Rosh Hashana. During this entire time, we reflect on our behavior of the past year, set new goals for the new year but most of all, we strive to come closer to G-d.
It is 7 in the morning and the temperature is fabulous — the only time of the day that I can say that. As I sit outside on my porch, just outside my kitchen, I can hear the birds waking to their day with their pleasant chirping. I am usually not up and about at this time of day — definitely a night owl—but this morning, like the other mornings this week, I am out early. I will leave soon for Gush Etzion, a drive of one and a half hours, to participate in the annual Bible Seminars, a highlight of my year!
I recently returned from a visit to the US and while I was there, a terrible attack took place against school children in Texas. A young man, 18 years of age, had purchased two semi-automatic rifles. He entered an elementary school, opened the door to a 4th grade classroom, and proceeded to mow down students and teachers alike. Nineteen children and two teachers were murdered in the Uvalde, Texas school.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). When I recited this verse in my prayers, it suddenly hit me. That is what Israel is all about. The Jewish people were reviled, persecuted or at best ignored for centuries. We were just like that worthless piece of stone that even the builders could find no use for. And yet, somehow, we are not only useful, of value, but we have prime value — the chief cornerstone that the entire building depends on.
Ramadan began on Saturday and the Arabs are going crazy. Of course, not all Arabs. But in the days that led up to Ramadan and since, terrorism has reared its ugly head once again. Arab citizens of Israel as well as their Palestinian co-religionists, have attacked and murdered Jews in Beersheva, Hadera and Bnei Brak. A terrorist got on a bus in Gush Etzion and repeatedly stabbed a passenger with a screw-driver in his chest.
Ukraine! There is nothing else on anyone’s minds today but the terrible situation that has developed in the Ukraine. An independent country in Eastern Europe, formerly part of the Soviet bloc, has been invaded by Russia. Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has long desired the restoration of Russian imperial and Soviet powers, which included Russian influence or control over Eastern Europe.
Today I had lunch with a couple of Danish journalists. They were truly interested in Israel and in Judea and Samaria and asked questions,. They wanted to know why I decided to live here and what our life is like here. At one point, I made a statement that I often make in these contexts: “So many people think we are a bunch of militant crazies who just want to kill Arabs at any opportunity, but we’re not.” And then one of the journalists asked me: “Why do you think people think that?”