A few short years ago, I graduated from high school. I don’t remember the exact date, but the graduation ceremony was somewhere in the two weeks between Passover and Israel's Independence Day (Yom HaAzmaut). I went to a Jewish High School, back in the Old Country, where we learned Bible, Jewish Law, Jewish History, a smattering of Hebrew, and a great deal of Zionism. We graduated in the early spring (there was probably still snow on the ground) so that my class could travel to Israel and spend five months working on a Kibbutz and travel the country.
I don’t remember all the details of that graduation. I do remember that I was the first in the line of graduates to march into the school synagogue – where the ceremony took place – because I was the shortest one (though I was led to believe it was because I was the cutest and smartest...). I remember who the valedictorian was (today, if I’m not mistaken, he’s a professor in a prestigious Old Country University). I remember the guest speaker, a Rabbi I much admired and respected, and who, several years later, as life would have it, became my cousin’s father-in-law. (By then, I was already living in Israel, and was not privileged to get to know him better.) I even remember the really awful dress that my mother had made for me for the event. It was truly hideous.
|The Old Country School with Snow|
Well, it wasn’t quite apprehension. More like disquiet. Worry. Dread. Terror.
Because, not only had I finished high school and my future now lay before me without an iota of an idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but, to make matter worse, I had opted out of going on the Israel program with my class. I had decided that if I was going to spend time in Israel, I was going to go by myself, and not with 20 people I had known all my life. A new country and a new experience required a new start, a fresh beginning, and independence.
Therefore, I, at the ripe old age of 17, made my first adult decision of NOT going to Israel with my class, and instead, to go by myself the following autumn.
All through that graduation, and for months after, I wondered and worried whether I had made the right decision. I was leaving the extreme comfort of the life well-known and the road well-traveled (and not doing what was expected of a good Jewish girl), and leaping into an abyss of the completely and utterly unfamiliar, unexplored, unknown.
My parents (may their memories be blessed) were NOT happy with this decision, to put it mildly.
That graduation ceremony was the last time I saw many of my classmates, who had been classmates, friends, and family just about all my life. I honestly didn't know anyone or anything else.
Shortly after graduation, and the departure of the participants of the Israel program, the Jewish community of my hometown organized its annual ‘Yom HaAzmaut March for Israel', something I had participated in every year for many years. That year was a significant anniversary (as it is this year). I made my way to the center of town to take part, as I had done many times before. Israeli flags were flying, Hebrew songs were being sung. I walked with the rest of the crowd, but without my friends, who were, for the most part, in Israel. There were a few other classmates who had not gone with the class, but I don’t remember seeing them at the March.
I left the March for Israel early, before the end.
And have not been back since.
I remember going home on the bus from that March, tears in my eyes, lonely, afraid, unsure of the future. Was the first decision I had made as an adult a wrong one? Fresh beginnings and independence weren't looking so appealing at that point.
I spent most of that summer alone.
I did come to Israel that autumn after my spring graduation as planned. I traveled alone, though I met an acquaintance on the plane. We parted in Tel Aviv, and I saw her again about 5 years later. She had left Israel after a few months. It hadn’t worked out for her.
Since that Old Country March for Israel, I have been blessed to celebrate every Yom HaAzmaut but one, here, in Israel, marking it in the traditional Israeli way: hanging flags on our car, eating falafel, watching fireworks, hiking, barbecuing, pretending I know an answer from the Bible Contest, and spending the day with family and friends. For me, it seems to have worked out.
Every day is a new beginning, a fresh start.
Every day is a challenge.
Every day is a wonder and a miracle.
And here I am now, these few years, one husband, five children, two grandchildren, four cars, and seven washing machines later.
Still marching for Israel.
(and still not knowing what I want to be when I grow up.)
That first decision as an adult turned out to be the right decision. I was not so lucky in all my subsequent decisions – sometimes yes, and sometimes no – but I have never regreted that first one, even when missiles, or the shekel, were falling.
And certainly not when there are fireworks.
אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ,
בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ.
הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ, וּפְרֹשׁ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ,
וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ, שָׂרֶיהָ וְיוֹעֲצֶיהָ, וְתַקְּנֵם בְּעֵצָה טוֹבָה מִלְּפָנֶיךָ.
חַזֵּק אֶת יְדֵי מְגִנֵּי אֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ, וְהַנְחִילֵם אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְשׁוּעָה
וַעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן תְּעַטְּרֵם, וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץוְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְיוֹשְׁבֶיהָ.
וְאֶת אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל פְּקָד־נָאבְּכָל אַרְצוֹת פְּזוּרֵיהֶם,
וְתוֹלִיכֵם מְהֵרָה קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְצִיּוֹן עִירֶךָ וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם מִשְׁכַּן שְׁמֶךָ,
כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַת משֶׁה עַבְדֶּךָ:
”אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ.
וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָוִירִשְׁתָּהּ,
וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ.“(דברים ל:ד-ה)
וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ, וְלִשְׁמֹר אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ.
וּשְׁלַח לָנוּ מְהֵרָה בֶּן דָּוִד מְשִׁיחַ צִדְקֶךָ, לִפְדּות מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ.
הוֹפַע בַּהֲדַר גְּאוֹן עֻזֶּךָ עַל כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵּבֵל אַרְצֶךָ, וְיֹאמַר כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ:
יהוה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֶלֶךְ,”וּ֝מַלְכוּת֗וֹ בַּכֹּ֥ל מָשָֽׁלָה.“(תהלים קג:יט)
Our Father who is in heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel,
bless the State of Israel, the dawn of our deliverance.
Shield it beneath the wings of Your love;
spread over it Your canopy of peace;
send Your light and Your truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors, and direct them with Your good counsel.
Strengthen the defenders of our Holy Land;
grant them, our God, salvation and crown them with victory.
Establish peace in the land, and everlasting joy for its inhabitants.
Remember our brethren, the whole house of Israel, in all the lands of their dispersion. Speedily bring them to Zion, Your city, to Jerusalem Your dwelling-place, as it is written in the of Your servant Moses:
“Even if you are dispersed in the uttermost parts of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather and fetch you. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your ancestors possessed, and you shall possess it; and God will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your ancestors.”
Unite our hearts to love and revere Your name, and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah.
Speedily send us Your righteous Messiah of the House of David, to redeem those waiting for Your salvation.
Shine forth in Your glorious majesty over all the inhabitants of Your world.
Let everything that breathes proclaim: “The Lord God of Israel is King; His majesty rules over all.”