Essay Contest: "What Israel Means to Me"
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Essay Contest:

Essay Contest: "What Israel Means to Me"

The top five entries, in honor of the 56th anniversary of the State of Israel.

by Aish.com Staff

What Israel Means to Me

by Darcy Silvers

Israel is much more than a tiny piece of land in the Middle East. She is living proof that the Jewish people have survived, against all odds, and will continue to survive -- and thrive.

Israel's citizens live in a constant state of the unknown. They don't know when or where the next terrorist attack will occur. They don't know which countries, Arab and other, will turn against them in the court of world opinion. They don't know how their economy will fare, thanks to the intifada. But they do know that they will continue to live their lives with some semblance of normalcy. They do know that, unlike many of their Palestinian counterparts, they will continue to cherish life. They are an inspiration to me.

Many of the world's most advanced technological and health care innovations originated in Israel. For a country the size of New Jersey, this is nothing short of remarkable. I kvell every time I hear of another Israeli breakthrough.

As a Hadassah volunteer, I also am particularly proud of the fact that Hadassah hospitals treat everyone alike – would-be suicide bombers, terrorist victims, innocent bystanders and heroes. Walk down the hospital hallways and you'll see kippot alongside keffiyahs and crosses.

I do know that, regardless of politics, I support Israel. I am a Zionist, and that transcends party lines. Likud, Labor, right, left, religious, secular… it's of no consequence to me. The only thing that matters is Israel's existence.

To me, Israel is a gem in the midst of a turbulent region. She's perhaps a little rough around the edges, but it's nothing a little polishing can't fix.

Israel feeds my spirit and my soul. She is an intoxicating mélange of sights, smells, tastes, sounds. From the rosy Jerusalem stone to the buoyant Dead Sea to the mouth-watering falafel stands, Israel awakens my senses. She is filled with irony, as a Shabbat melody is pierced by the wails of sirens… followed by the wails of the terrorists' latest targets and then, a deafening silence.

I may live in the Diaspora, but Israel is in my heart. I think of Israel constantly. I think of her when I check my emails daily for updates on the intifada. I think of Israel at bedtime, when my youngest son prays for peace. I think of Israel when I hold look at the walls of my home, covered with the creations of Israeli artists. Or when I put on a piece of jewelry crafted by Israeli artisans. I think of Israel every time I glance at my hand, which bears a ring carved with my Hebrew name – a ring I never remove.

Just as I dare not remove the ring from my finger, I cannot remove Israel from my being. I am Israel. She is me. We are one. When all else in the world seems dark and hopeless, Israel is my beacon of hope. Am Yisrael Chai.

* * *

What Israel Means to Me

by Moshe Teutsch, age 8

Israel means going to the Kotel and praying for the sick people of Israel.

Israel means going to Mt. Hermon and skiing.

Israel means going to the zoo in Jerusalem and riding on the train.

Israel means going to a pidyon petter chamor (redemption of first-born donkey -- see Exodus 13:13), and afterwards eating lamb at the barbeque. (I really did that!)

Israel means seeing the almond trees blossoming on Tu B'Shvat.

Israel means growing the special seven species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) in our garden. (But we don't have them all yet…)

Israel means living in the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

* * *

What Israel Means to Me

by Sarah Rosenblum

"Where did Abraham almost sacrifice his son Isaac? Where did David fight Goliath? Where did Jacob dream of the angels going up and down the ladder? Where did Lot turn to a pillar of salt? Where was Moses leading the children of Israel to, the place they called the land of milk and honey?" my mother used to say. "It is in the land of Israel.”

I loved hearing these bedtime stories as I fell asleep. Wow! What a place that must be. I will go there one day!

I was born in Scandinavia one year after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Ten years later we were on the ship heading south as new immigrants to live in Australia. Sailing through the Suez Canal one could see Egypt on the right side with its funny-looking trees (palm trees!) and the strange mud brick buildings we had never seen before.

But I stayed on the left side of the ship staring toward the dry, sandy desert, asking my mother, “How far from here is Israel? Why do we have to go to Australia? Why can't we live in Israel?”

"Because we're not Jewish!" my mother answered.

Living in Queensland, Australia, when the 1967 war broke out, I was glued to the radio. If only I had enough money I would go to Israel and fight for the Jewish people! But those young years were full of other distractions and it wasn't till many years later, in 1982, that I set foot for the first time on the Israeli soil. By then I had traveled all around the world and I thought this was to be just another mark on the map for me. But I was wrong. It wasn't a mark on the map, but a mark on my soul. All I knew was that I would be back one day. Israel is where I felt I belonged, with these people, all strangers, but I felt a part of them.

In October 2003, I again stepped onto the holy soil, this time as a Jew, with my husband and son. We had made aliyah!

Compared to where we came from, life here is hard. But we feel at peace here, and truly feel that we have come home, after a very loooooong trip. Australia seems so far away and such a long time ago. Life has purpose here in Israel. My very soul and spirit comes alive. Life has meaning. We have no relatives living here, but we do not feel alone, for we are amongst our people, the family of Israel… in the Land of Israel… my home.

* * *

What Israel Means to Me

by Carolyn Dow
Wilkeson, Washington, USA

Israel is the home of my heart.

The song of my spirit

Eden's garden

A wandering place, Abraham's dream of delight

Soft air

Hiddenness

The Wall at night

Yeshiva boys playing in the narrow, ancient streets

Old Russian women begging for mercy and alms

The blessing of rabbis and soldiers and airport workers on the tourists who come anyway

Handsome soldiers with weapons slung the way I carry my handbag.

The slightly rundown hotels, scrimping on everything but hospitality and food, waiting for tourism to pick up.

Camels and donkeys, Gecko lizards and rocks, the Jordan River, the Galilee, and peppers growing on trees.

The best mango I've ever tasted, treading on dates, so much beauty and variety crammed into so small a space.

Ice cream on the Golan.

The blazing sunset, cracking thunder in the night, and blessed rain.

The waves breaking below, unconcerned at my tears of farewell, buckled in my seat alone,

When may I come back to you, home of my heart, delight of my eyes, song of my spirit?

* * *

What Israel Means to Me

by Chaya B. Halle

Israel. Its magnetic pull tugs at the Jew's soul in an inexplicable appeal. From all corners of the world, Jews come, like migrant birds returning to the place of their birth, guided only by some God-given internal instinct. An instinct to see, to touch, to live the place that bridges past, present and future in a mysterious, unbreakable chain.

What is it here that cries to the soul, so loudly and strongly that its echo remains even far beyond Israel's boundaries? We no longer have the pride of our nation, the Holy Temple. We are left with but remains of a glorious past, in truth, reminders that we are a nation that has fallen from the greatest heights. We do have pain here. Pain that has been given so many terms and analyses as if to dismiss the suffering as a mere political shuffle. But obstinate labels and expressions cannot change the reality of terror.

So why do we come? A dazzling selection of Jews from across the spectrum of culture and religious affiliation form the great rubik's cube which is the Jews of Israel. From the chassid to the Ethiopian, from those deeply involved in Torah study and those who barely know what Torah is, they all come. They come, they love, and they stay. From whence comes the yearning that settles in the soul and does not let a Jew forget Israel?

I ponder the question, standing on my rooftop that overlooks the winding roads of Jerusalem. There is something here, something that cannot be heard or touched, but is somehow absorbed. It seeps in through the pores of the skin and spreads throughout the body. For thousands of generations Jews have known that our destiny lies in the Holy Land. Israel's pull is one toward the future. It's a hope in the air that great things lie ahead for the Jewish nation, and it's going to happen here. I can picture in my mind's eye these very streets, thronging with Jews singing and dancing, rejoicing in the redemption of our nation.

Jerusalem is waiting longingly for her glory to return. God, we're here and we're waiting.

 

Published: April 17, 2004


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 26

(26) sarit hadad, April 30, 2006 12:00 AM

i love israel because the humus

the humus is a israely simbel.
the humus is very taisty for me, special with pita and picaels.
i love harife too, special shug and arisa.
the nutional israely food is falafel and in the falafel hes to much oil, but this no disterv at all.
allso i love chinis food and specialy nudels and vegtebels like cerut and gamba.
thats it for now
love you s.h

(25) Reizl Fink, March 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Encompasses all that I feel for Eretz Yisrael

The essays are magnificent!
They go to the heart of the Jewish soul.

(24) Anonymous, July 28, 2004 12:00 AM

one word answer, yet powerful age 12

EVERYTHING!

(23) atara, May 3, 2004 12:00 AM

atara 13 israel, jerusalem

i just made aliya and i know what isael means to me it means to live free as a proud jew to show the world israel is ours! israel is our land and its gorgues!!! ive never seen such wonderfull land in my life! so i say this as a proud jew im proud to live in israel somewere where no one can kick you out its your land its our forever no one can say we dont belong! we want to be in our land hashems giving us all singhs but u have to take them and stop pushing them away! come back to eratz isroel!

(22) Yehonaton ben Danyael haLevi, May 2, 2004 12:00 AM

What Israel means to me?

Israel means that I am free to live as a Jew, regardless of where I am in the world. Israel means that I can live as a Jew, anywhere in the world. Israel means that as a Jew I have a place to be a Jew when everywhere else I am told that I cannot... Israel means that there is a G_d, regardless if you or anyone else wants to accept the idea as fact. It simply means that there is truth, objective truth, not because you, me, or anyone else thinks its true, yet simply because it is, and yet that means you do not have to like or agree with the fact that Israel means all this and so much more. Toddah/Thanks.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!