By Rabbi Marshal Klaven
I’m embarrassed to say that I cannot recall precisely how many times I’ve been to Israel. The best I can do is say that nearly 25 years ago I began a love affair with this country that continues to this day. But, as with all loves, the journey of the heart is rarely smooth.
Sure… initially, she was amazing! Knowing I was there on a high school program, she put on her best face. As a teenager — with very little [international] experience — what she showed me touched not just my heart but moved my soul. To say the least, I was smitten. Leaving her broke my heart, allowing a deep longing to seep in.
When I did return to her, some handful of years later, she was not the same. She was cold, distant, almost unrecognizable. In the throes of the Second Intifada, she was in pain and was acting out from that dark place. As hard as I tried (having come there to volunteer), she was not returning to that more innocent, peaceful place.
I left hurt… in more ways than one. But over the years, as I worked on my own healing, so did she. On many subsequent visits, I witnessed her and our relationship mending. Actually, more than mending. Our relationship grew and continues to grow stronger, more true than when I first laid eyes on her.
“Why?” you may ask. Because, now I see Israel for who she really is. She is both perfection and imperfection, extraordinary and ordinary, both intensely loving and very frustrating, vulnerable but strong. At times, I can point to her with pride and, at others, I feel shame and simply want to hide.
Maybe that is why no two trips to Israel are ever the same… In addition to being “THE Jewish State,” she is also, constantly a State of Flux… changing, growing, developing to be a better “light unto the nations,” a menorah to not just illuminate the path ahead but warm the heart, so we — like her — can strive to be a better version of ourselves.