Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Flight to Israel

As anyone who has traveled on El-Al (the Israel national airlines) knows, before you go through security, you must speak with an El-Al security representative. He (or she) asks you an assortment of questions about why you’re going to Israel, whether you have family there, if you’ve been there before etc. They’re rather direct in letting you know that they’re doing all of this to ensure that you are not a security threat to the flight or to the state of Israel upon arriving. For people unaccustomed to this, it can be a bit jarring and disorienting to find yourself acting defensive for no discernable reason.

I have always loved this.

Israel understands that there are too many people out there that want to terrorize and (ultimately) destroy Israel and the Jewish people. The fact that El-Al is the safest airline in the world, despite being the most threatened, is a testament to the resolve and capability of the Jewish state to defend her people.

It is more than just this though.

Getting to the airport and speaking with El-Al security, wherever you are in the world, is a person’s first tangible encounter with the reality of Jewish sovereignty. With Jewish responsibility. With the fact that the Jewish people, finally, after 2,000 years of helplessness, have both the will and the means to defend our families and our eternal homeland. Jewish security no longer means vulnerability, appeasement or an unfounded hope in the goodness of others. It means having the strength and the courage to independently ensure our own security and our own freedom. This largely subconscious understanding together with the knowledge that I will soon touch down in Eretz Israel has always filled my heart with pride as I began my Israel travels: the whole experience is a microcosm of Zionism.

This time was even more special. Explaining to the security guy my story and why I was traveling to Israel, he looked me in the eyes, gave me a firm handshake and a hug, and said, “Thank you for what you are doing. We need more people like you. Good luck and stay strong.” It was a heartwarming welcome and I was held temporarily speechless by such a relatively emotional outburst from a  traditionally stoic security agent. It made me even more resolute in my commitment to Israel, and it eased some of the anxieties I was feeling. I was doing the right thing. 

For days leading up to the move, I had been nervous, emotional, and a bit shell struck…as in holy shit I’m really going through with this. It wasn’t just something I was talking about or thinking about anymore: I was literally getting on a plane in 2 days. I was really excited to finally get to Israel, but I was also anxious as hell to see how I would cope with everything. 

That moment with the security guard and then seeing the giant El-Al plane through the airport window, with the Blue star of David proudly and defiantly perched upon its wing was something I will always remember: The intensity of my dream to do my part in defending Israel and the Jewish people was crystal clear at that moment. Waiting in the airport, with my bags draped over my shoulders, I felt steeped in our people’s history.

I thought of all of the idealistic Jews from all over the world, over the past 150 years, who left their homes and their lives determined to contribute to the Zionist dream, defend the Jewish people, and rebuild the Jewish homeland.  I thought of Mickey Marcus, an American Jew (and West Point graduate) who became the first general of a Jewish army in 2,000 years and who gave his life defending the new born state of Israel. I thought of the late Michael Levin, a hero of mine, who returned to Israel during the second Lebanon War to be with his brothers, despite already completing his service and being back home in America.

I thought of the Jews from Arab lands that fled persecution with nothing but the clothes on their back to reach the Jewish homeland. I thought of the Ethiopians that held onto their Judaism throughout the centuries and whose dreams were finally realized as they were rescued to the safe haven of the homeland. I thought of the Yemenites and Operation Red Carpet. I thought of the hundreds of thousands of Russians that immigrated to Israel upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and I thought of the record number of French Jews that are currently on their way to the Jewish state against a renewed backdrop of Anti-Semetism.  In that moment, Jewish and Israeli history were gripping. Everything else was details. Background music.  

This love of Israel and my fundamental belief in the truths of Zionism is what led me down this path and its what will allow me to overcome all the tough moments I am certain to endure throughout my service. But while I think this passion is necessary to endure as a Lone Soldier, there are tons of other reasons why Americans join the IDF. Even for me, there are other benefits that complement my Zionist motivation; primarily the challenge of having to prove my mettle in such a fundamental way. I've had a pretty cushy American life (camp, sports, college), and I know I am lucky to have had such a fun and loving childhood. This next chapter will be a change. It will be brutal at times. The IDF will be by far the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging 18 months I've ever experienced. I will have to to suffer and endure, become mentally tougher, fight for myself, and go past my breaking point in order to succeed. I will have to dig deep to really find out what I'm made out of.

I can't wait to find out.

As my dad is fond of saying, “When your why is strong enough, you’ll figure out the how.”

I know my Why. It is strong enough.

Welcome to Eretz Israel.

1 comment:

  1. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usama and Taleban and then this incident happened.  חבילות נופש ברגע האחרון