Today is independence day (yom haAtzma’ut) in Israel and this reminds me of an incident some time ago at lunch with my collegues. Somehow we talked about Israel (of course I defended Israel and explained lots of things). And suddenly one of my collegues asked "Are you an Israeli citizen" – "No" I replied. – "So, what is your relation with Israel?" came the next question. And I had no answer.
I have been to Israel several times. I have lived there for a while (6 months) and I could imagine living there again some day. So is it just this normal connection that you have for a place where you spent some time? No. I have been to Spain lots of times, I have lived there for 1,5 years, I can imagine going back there – and it is not the same. I do not follow Spanish newspapers, but I read Israeli newspapers. I do not feel the need to defend Spain from stupid comments, but I do vigorously defend Israel. I have an Israeli flag, I cheer for Israel at Eurovision, I know the Israeli national anthem by heart, I feel pain when Israel is under attack.
Israel is special. Of course it is a country with lovely nature, interesting culture, lots of historical sights, lots of high-tech innovations and nice people. But so is Spain (ok, minus the high-tech), this doesn’t explain it. With Israel, there is this bond. The feeling of coming home. I know many people who feel it. Some people give up everything just to be in Israel. In spite of the conflict, the language barrier, the economic situation. And still, they also cannot answer the question why. It just feels right.
I can understand this sounds very strange for other people. Some time after this incident, when I was in synagogue and we said the prayer for Israel and hummed haTikva (the Israeli national anthem) as background, I suddenly saw myself from the outside and noticed how … foreign this must feel to an outsider. Why do I hum the national anthem of some other country in a religious ceremony? Why will I go down to the city center this afternoon and dance folk dances of this other country, wave flags and conclude the day with the national anthem? It really is bizarre if you think about it like that.
I want to conclude with a quote from the poem "Was Es Ist" (What It Is) by Erich Fried which best explains the feeling (English translation from goodreads.com):
It is madness
It is what it is
It is unhappiness
It is what it is