Prior to the start of my conversion to Judaism, I never gave much thought about Israel asides from it being a place of great Biblical importance and a place where bombings seem to be common place.
Now, the subjects of “choseness” and “peoplehood” cross my mind daily. How do I connect to Israel, when I was not born into this Jewish faith? The rabbi I am working with also asked me about my connection to Israel and it’s taken me several months (and one can surmise 33 years) to form a concrete opinion.
I get lost in thinking of Israel as my Judaic “homeland” and a land of “chosen people” (I want to be “chosen” too!). I know so little about it’s culture outside of Biblical times and drown in attempting to absorb its past and present politics. Just like everything else in Judaism, there is sooooo much to understand and it feels as if I’ll never fully grasp it.
So how do I connect? I choose to think about God calling all of his people Israelites (after patriarch Jacob) and the state of Israel being a place where I can go to visit the holy sites I’ve read about and soak in the many aspects of Judaic culture that I miss by living in the United States. I am excited to travel there and immerse myself in its natural beauty, pray where others before me have witnessed miracles and further my Jewish education and experience.
This week is a holiday that up until now, I have never thought to celebrate; Yom Ha’atzmaut (click for the Wikipedia run-down). This week, I will make the effort to learn about what makes Israel unique and embrace it in new ways. To start, I printed out the wikipedia article on Israel (51 pages!) and will begin to learn how it started as a nation and the challenges that this has presented. As Julie Andrews said; “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”.