Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Land of Our Own

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. One of the two days in the year (the other being Yom HaShoah) where the world has the opportunity to reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust. I think, for Jews, that opportunity comes up a lot more often. For someone like me, who has a mild to moderate obsession with the history of the Holocaust, I reflect quite regularly.

I spent last week in Europe, mostly traveling alone. I went to Lisbon, Frankfurt and London on my yearly "mental health break" where I see the world and just breathe a bit (if you can swing it, I highly recommend it.) And in between scavenging for kosher food, seeing the sights, sailing on those ubiquitous European rivers and shopping ("Zaras across Europe!") I did what I always do. I designed my usual "Jordana's Jewish tour" of whatever city I traveled. 

In Lisbon, I saw a tiny community, a Chabad that is currently closed until March, no real kosher to speak of (Gd bless their one outpost) and a generally empty synagogue. Portugal has a storied (read: horrible) history with regards to their Jewish citizens. In deference to Spain, Portugal expelled, killed or forcibly converted all their Jews in the 1500's. Jews weren't allowed back into the country for hundreds of years. Today, the Lisbon Jewish community is around 300 and the Porto community ("much bigger!" exclaims my tour guide) hovers around 400. There is also a belief that due to the widespread phenomenon of hidden or crypto-Jews, as much as 35% of the Portuguese have Jewish blood. That's great. Didn't stop me from having to send my passport in advance to be able to be let into the bulletproof gate surrounding the synagogue that, when built, wasn't allowed to face the street. Because Christianity. Moving on to Frankfurt.

Beautiful shul for a tiny community

I'm sure it's unsurprising that I may have felt some trepidation as a Jew in Frankfurt. In this particular instance, I came for one full day and stayed with a close friend who observes kosher. Which was wonderful. While my hostess took care of errands, I went to the open Jewish museum (the main one is undergoing renovation) which focused on the Judengasse- essentially the Jewish street right down the middle of the Jewish ghetto-home to all of Frankfurt's Jews for hundreds of years. And, of course, the museum was guarded by two burly, heavily armed soldiers right out front. Because, Europe.

Can you tell I was nervous to photograph the guards?

The museum is free and beautifully done and maintained. I saw relics of a time and a place long-gone. I also read stories of regular pogroms, and regular blood libels and absurdly high taxes, and forced money-lending jobs, and displacement, and otherness and Jews essentially being at the mercy of whomever the king or kaiser happened to be at the time. And this, my friends, was one hundred years before Hitler.

Thanks Germany!

Then I went to London and well, I love London. I've seen so much of it so when my host suggested I spend the morning of my last day at the permanent Holocaust exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, I jumped at the chance (it's like she was in my brain!) And as I walked through the impeccably done exhibit, I wasn't focusing as much on the stories and displays as I was on my fellow visitors. I was watching them read and ingest so much of what I already knew and have seen (I've been to Yad Vashem alone well over 25 times.) I hoped they made the connection between anti-Semitism before the war and some of what they heard about in the news today and hoped they'd try to be part of the solution.

A lot of what I thought about was those who try to deny Jews the right to their homeland, specifically anti-Zionist Jews. I had to wonder- have they been to a Holocaust museum? A European synagogue with soldiers armed to the teeth posted outside? A memorial to a ghetto where Jews were made to be outsiders, endlessly wandering with nowhere to call home? Have these people ever really understood the rootlessness, the all-consuming fear that must come from having nowhere to go? Or have they lived their whole lives in the warm embrace of an America or a Canada where they're just as accepted and just as integrated as anyone else in their neighborhood?

I'm grateful to the United States for providing Jews with a safe place to settle after thousands of years of crusades and pogroms and expulsions and Holocausts. But I never take the miracle of Israel for granted and I always feel the luckiest to live here, on my own terms. I wasn't forced to make aliyah (quite the opposite!) and maybe it just takes a quick trip to Europe or a special day like Holocaust Remembrance Day for me to realize that "Never Again" is only a reality because Jews will never be homeless again. 

In unending appreciation to the blessed US soldiers who liberated the hell that was Auschwitz, the saintly righteous among the nations, who risked their lives for other human beings, and the State of Israel, for providing a safe haven for all Jews from all places, whether they choose to live here or not. May G-d watch over you and keep you safe.

Monday, November 11, 2019


I keep making excuses for my lack of productivity on this blog. The goal was to write about my aliyah. Well, that is old news. There comes a time in an olah's life where it switches from "oh! You just got here!" to "oh! You've been here for a while!" and I truly do not know what the delineation is, but it's happened. And the reason I have time to blog today is because the Tel Aviv municipality has canceled non-essential work for a Siren Day! Gone is the era of snow days. In this country, only an election or an incoming rocket will cause businesses to close. Not to mention we're having the warmest Autumn in nine years so snow isn't only not an issue, it's nowhere on the horizon. But the funniest part of this all is that I've been here long enough that this isn't even my first siren experience! That happened a few days after I got here.

This is the Iron Dome- Gd bless the Iron Dome

My mother calls me in a panic, wants to make sure I did the siren the right way. In the fortified room, in the basement, stayed there an extra 15 minutes to be safe. I didn't but I say "yep!" I take care of myself pretty well. It makes me laugh to think she's worried about me, here in the Jewish state. I face the enemy we know, in this case Islamic Jihad who are angry we've killed a leader of theirs. Meanwhile, my family sits in New York City, often referred to as Jew York City for its enormous Jewish population, now facing religious threats much like the rest of the country where I once lived. 

I recently went to NYC to visit my family and meet my new baby nephew (he is SO poopoopoo I literally can't even!) and my mom and I went to shul for Yom Kippur prayers. My mom kept glancing at the door, which made sense because she really can't wait to get out of shul. We were in the basement group service, whereas the other two services were upstairs near the front entrances. My mom turned to me and said "I don't like how that entrance isn't guarded" like the other two upstairs were. "Doesn't it make you nervous?" Now, by nature, I'm not a worrier and my mother is the definition of one (Jewish moms, yadda yadda) but for once I thought her anxiety might be founded.

I left America, the goldene medineh- the promised land for a people that was tortured by every country in the diaspora where they fled. Europe, North Africa and the Middle East all became inhospitable to their Jewish populations and it seemed like America was the first country to break that mold. And honestly, I would never compare America to what Jews are facing elsewhere in the world in 2019. I don't generally worry for my family's safety. But I do hear about a new incident (or ten) every day- a swastika on a synagogue, a vandalized cemetery, a beating of a Hasidic-looking Jew, a BDS resolution, a bomb threat, an anti-Semitic outburst on a subway- that makes me wonder if the clock is ticking on our time in the US.

Jewish cemetery in Nebraska vandalized, November 2019

I hope not. I don't want anyone to feel scared to threatened, least of all my family and friends. I don't want anyone to have to hide their Jewishness or their support for the Jewish state. And as much as I want people to make aliyah and come home, I don't want them to do it because they have to. I love my family intensely, but they don't want to move here (try as I might to badger them about it in nearly every conversation.) And if they ever do come, I want it to be running toward, not running away. So as I sit here on my unexpected Siren Day off from work, I think about how funny perspective is, with my mom terrified of rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and me feeling like I'm living in the safest country in the world to be Jewish. Perspective.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Five Years On

About two weeks ago was my 5th anniversary of Aliyah- or Aliyaversary as the Olim call it, proving we can’t have nice things. Whatever you call it, five full years have passed since I began this grand adventure of living in Israel. And let me tell you, it’s been an adventure! I have experienced the highest of highs and definitely the lowest lows of my life here. I have started and left jobs, met new friends, deepened relationships and let some go. I have moved house and city. I have (slightly) improved my Hebrew and (definitely) improved my Israeli knowledge. I have watched too many of the cohort I arrived with “go back home” wondering how, how, how they didn’t consider Israel their true home!

So if I may take this wealth of information I have gleaned after living here a half-decade and share some do’s and don’ts for making Aliyah. Because it’s true- it’s the hardest thing you will ever do, but also the best.

5 Years of Living the Dream

Do- make a plan
Depending on your age, the plan will differ. But if you’re younger or unmarried and unclear where you plan to live “forever,” give yourself a soft landing- an Ulpan, an unaudited college course, a coffee shop part- time job. Something that allows you to start out slowly and get your bearings here, while you still have money coming to you from your Aliyah. 

Don’t- make Aliyah while on vacation, Birthright, for a guy/gal you really like
I hate telling anyone not to move here but Israel is definitely a magical place, especially for visiting Jews. Don’t get swept up and try to extend the best vacation ever or “see what happens” with the hot soldier from your Birthright. I’ll tell you what happens. 99/100 times, it ends with you on the plane crying about how Tal ghosted you. 

Do- grow a pair
Please excuse my crudeness! I could have said “toughen up” but the sentiment remains. Israel is tough and Israelis are tough. Does that mean it’s not for you? No. Does that mean you have to be “rude”? Also no. It means that when you move to Israel, a little assertiveness may just save your life. There’s nothing rude about not letting people cut you in line and there’s nothing rude about telling your waiter you haven’t gotten food in 30 minutes. There’s nothing rude about asking for a lower price in the shuk and there’s nothing rude about wanting the girl on the bus to wear headphones instead of blasting music on her phone. Standing up for yourself may feel difficult for someone say, from Vancouver (kidding!) but it will make life here exponentially easier.

Don’t- have FOMO
Living so far away from your native country, you will be bound to miss a lot of things. I think we don't realize how many things we have until we're missing them. And while you may be able to fly in for the odd wedding and 90th birthday party (or if you're British, something even less major like an anniversary or a Pidyon haBen- seriously, Brits head back to England a lot) you will be missing engagements and births, graduations and Bat Mitzvahs. Not to mention Labor Days, Chanukas and Thanksgivings! Oh, how I miss my Thanksgivings! That said, you will also be front and center for the important events- those that take place in Israel! Your friends and family will hopefully decide that there is no better place to celebrate a big moment than in the Homeland, and you'll be one of the only people who will get to witness the blessed event! Plus, you'll be making new friends and all of their smachot will be here! Problem solved.
And with the advent of Facetime and Skype and even Instagram video, you can feel like your there while in your bed in pajamas. It's kind of even better! Plus, with social media being what it is, aren't we all in a perpetual state of FOMO anyway?

Do- calibrate expectations
Spoiler alert- people in America (Canada, England, Australia, France) make more money. For the same jobs. And often less hours. This is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fact. Sure, I’ve heard there are rich Israelis, haven’t met too many personally though so introduce me! But by and large, we make less, our houses are smaller, we have fewer cars and the stuff we want generally costs the same. So what do we do? We adapt! I was a total shopaholic in NYC. Now, I buy less and I’ve survived. We budget. We buy what’s most important. And some things are cheaper now, too. Travel to Europe- could I ever afford that living in the States? Buying produce at the shuk. And how much have I saved taking the bus?
You adapt to having less here and realize that your life can still be as fun, comfortable and rich (see what I did there?) even without all the tchotchkes of America (et al.)

Don’t- expect New York in the Middle East (Or Toronto, Sydney, London or Paris) 
Oh, your sushi is better in Brooklyn and your nail salon is better in Hendon? Tough toenails! We are in the Middle East people! And while it's not a Third World country (although some may lead you to believe that) we did have smoking breaks in the middle of movies like, 5 years ago. So while you may be used to the luxuries of life, some things you will have to do without. And if you ask enough people (although ask friends, not Secret Tel Aviv for better intel) you can find your new favorite sushi place, manicurist, and English-speaking dermatologist!

Do- learn Hebrew
Take this from someone who hasn't. Well, as any of my friends (and dates who force me to speak in Hebrew) will tell you, I speak Hebrew. Just not well. And just not willingly. Just not how I hoped I'd speak it. I didn't take Ulpan as seriously as I should, nearly all my friends are Anglo, I've lived in two English-heavy cities and I usually force my dates to converse in English (I'm worth it, it's fine.) But don't be me. L'lamed Ivrit. 

Don’t- just leave because it’s hard
I once heard a shiur (and I never remember anything from them, so this should be good) and the rabbi said that the opposite of pleasure isn't pain, it's comfort. And nowhere does this strike me more than in my Aliyah. I left what is the epitome of comfort in America- easy money, my entire family, friends from childhood, a car, a mall as big as a small city, and on and on. Comfortable, yep, but was it actual pleasure? I came to a place where a trip to the bank takes half your day and you fully want to throttle your bus driver, mailman and landlord over the course of one day. That said, the work that goes in to Aliyah, the effort and the blood, sweat and tears, only makes being here more pleasurable. It is always more enjoyable eating a delicious cake you baked than one you bought, wearing a sweater you knitted than one you got at Zara. There is no feeling of success greater than a quick and painless trip to Misrad Hapnim or finding your way from Tel Aviv to the Golan by yourself. You put effort into your businesses, your schoolwork, your relationships- things that matter can be hard, but the payoff is huge. That is Aliyah- a less comfortable life, maybe, but certainly a more pleasurable one.

And lastly...
Do- Understand that the future of the Jewish people is here
I get it. America has been very welcoming to Jews and there is probably no better place to be Jewish outside Israel than the tri-state area. All that said- what's happening in America, and Europe and South Africa, this "rise in anti-Semitism" is real and it's not new. And it won't be the first time and history is nothing if not cyclical. That doesn't mean you should make Aliyah because you're scared. It means you should make the idea of Aliyah, of living in the Jewish state, of starting or continuing your family here more of a reality and less of some nebulous nice idea that will never actually materialize. And if you really can't imagine doing it yourself, you should raise children in a way where Aliyah is a value and a goal. 

Aliyah and life in Israel is for every Jew, not just the crazy Zionists like me. You just have to plan well, come with a positive mindset and work really hard to make this the best life you can. 

And I hope you will, so that in 5, 10, however many years it takes, I can wish you a Mazal Tov on your own Aliyaversary!

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Jew’s Life

As usual, it takes something huge to actually motivate me to blog, and I had been moving in that direction for weeks before the events in Pittsburgh shoved me all the way there.

Let’s start with the basics: my brothers and sisters (or in the case of many of the victims, zaidys and bubbies) were murdered, in shul, for the crime of being Jewish. They were murdered like the 6 million. They were targeted like Jews were murdered in Russia, Spain, England and on and on for literally thousands of years.

They were murdered like the Jews in Paris and the Jews in Mumbai. They were murdered like the Jews in Munich and the Jews in Argentina. And for sure they were murdered like the Jews in Har Nof and Sderot and Tel Aviv. A Jew is a Jew to those who hate us, and if you want to spend your time quibbling about embassies and settlements and right and left, kindly show yourself the door, because I’m tired.

I believe in semantics, the words people use. When I go back to the USA to visit and people say “oh, you’re going home?” I say “no, I am home. I’m going to see my family.” And they roll their eyes and mumble something about my raging Zionism and we move on. Why do I say that? Because here is home. Here I am not “the other, the (((Jew)))” here I belong.

I lived in America my whole life and loved it. My house has an American flag, I scream-sing the National anthem at baseball games, aggressively follow Team USA during international competition and know American history like the back of my hand. My dream vacation destination as a child was colonial Williamsburg.

Why am I mentioning this (other than giving you a glimpse into a weird hyper-patriotic kid?) Because I don’t blame this tragedy on America whatsoever. It’s not Trump’s fault (sorry, but that’s just wishful thinking on the part of those who blame him for the sun coming up.) It’s not the alt-right, or Antifa or the Klan or the Nation of Islam (although they all really hate Jews, to be fair.) Because Jews are killed everywhere in the world at every point in history, and it would be pretty odd to blame those tragedies on the alt-right, even though the motive is always exactly the same.

A lot of well-meaning people ask “what can we do” to help eradicate anti-Semitism. Certainly ensuring it has no place in government or on campus or in the media is a great start, but there is no way to actually end anti-Semitism. It’s an irrational bigotry- we’re hated because were too religious and too secular, too wealthy and too much on welfare, too educated and too ignorant, too assimilated and too separate, too left-wing and too right-wing. We are whatever it is bigots hate in nation-form, and that’s pretty hard to eradicate- or at least it hasn’t been done in over 3,000 years.

Which brings me to my final point. The last acceptable anti-Semitism is also known as anti-Zionism (I’m lookin’ at you, Jews and non-Jews alike.) This tragedy happened in Pittsburgh to a conservative synagogue and you still hear people blaming the embassy move and Gaza. And if that makes you feel better, if it makes you feel safer and absolved of guilt, you enjoy that. But Israel wasn’t just not a factor in this tragedy, it is the only known defense the Jewish people have against a world gone mad. Most Jews know it, our enemies know it and jeez Louise, anti Zionist Jews, you better get to know it too!

It is the main difference between the Jews of 1933 and the Jews of 2018- a strong country with a strong government and a strong army. And you can call us a country of land-thieves with a hawkish government and a brutal army until the cows come home- but we are the main factor in this entire world ensuring “Never Again” is a reality.

So while I hope that the Jews of America are safe in the “goldene medina” for as long as they want to stay there (and that includes the people I love most in this entire world) we must always remember that we are one nation, with one heart and only one homeland to call our own. Come for a visit or come to stay, but come Home soon.

And to the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy,
"May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Peace Summit on the 480

       I just met Lenny, an American Jewish philosophy professor, on the bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We chatted the entire ride. Lenny informed me that he was here in Israel as a member of the MERETZ delegation from the States, and essentially he was here to make peace between Israel and its neighbor.

        Now, normally, I don’t engage too deeply with people on the complete opposite side of the political spectrum. And before you yell at me, hear me out. I am right- wing. Quite. Duh. I’m not really that middle- of- the- road, nor are my opinions “developing” or “fluid.” I also like people and want them to like me. And one way to ensure someone won’t like me is to have a screaming match with them about politics. And therefore, I try not to engage to the point where this might occur.

        Back to Lenny. He said he was here with Meretz. I kept my eyes from rolling straight back into my skull, because I’m an adult. Then Lenny said, “well, we’re both Zionists, so we can build on that!” I paused. I asked him, “Does Meretz really consider itself Zionist?” He responded affirmatively and I realized that, like their religious observance, generally people think that their Zionism is the correct way to do Zionism. So that was a good starting point.

         Throughout the ride we found lots to agree on- the miracle of Israel, the fact that academia has become an impossible place to be a Zionist, the incredible people who live here, the shameful lack of assistance for some olim that causes them to leave.

          We disagreed on more. The African refugee/migrant problem (semantics play an issue). Changing demographics- he believes Jews will soon lose their demographic majority, I don’t. We were on the same page about BDS until he told me he won’t buy from “the Settlements.” I told him to please change “settlements” to “Jews” and be aware that he is boycotting Jews. Boycotting Jews like the Germans did in the ‘30s. Then he said his father was a survivor and we just agreed on a lot of Holocaust stuff for a bit and got back on track.

           He tried to make me believe that the conflict was about land, while I think it’s religious. I begged him to please not equate Bibi with Abbas (Meretz despises no one on earth more than Bibi, I learned. His name came up many times, as he is apparently the root of all evil in this country. Who knew?)

          At one point I tried to turn around and get back to my 12 waiting games of Words With Friends. Lenny kept the conversation going. And I realized this. Lenny is an idealist, I am a realist (although he’d say he’s a realist and I’m a pessimist.) He genuinely wants everyone to be happy and content here and I worry mostly about the Jews in Israel and our safety and well-being. He believes we have peace partners (it’s not his fault, I’m certain Palestinian reps are telling Meretz reps whatever they want to hear) and I think that’s just a fantasy.

          So much of what divides us is our vocabulary. Lenny always called them “settlers” and I call them “citizens.” Lenny only calls Judea and Samaria “the West Bank.” Lenny talked about the “hilltop youth”- a not large group of nationalists who have become a bogeyman and a convenient parallel for Muslim terrorists. Lenny called the Africans “refugees” while they have also been referred to as “migrants.” We come from such different places- he in secular American left- wing academia, me in Modern Orthodox right- wing Israel advocacy. 

But at the end of our trip, we talked about what we agreed upon- a strong, safe, Jewish Home for us all. We shook hands, wished each other well and I can only assume he’s writing a blog post about me as we speak!

           Good luck with everything, Lenny, and keep fighting the good fight!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Five Stages of Dealing with Anti-Israel Social Media

If you're anything like me, you've gotten sucked into the news lately, and if you're pro-Israel, it can be a maddening ride, especially on social media. So like any other grief- like situation, let's get through these 5 steps, and come out the other side.

yelling steve carell GIF

DENIAL: “Who are all these people on the internet calling my beautiful, kind and brave country everything from murderers to Nazis? Can’t be! They don’t know what they’re saying! If they only knew! They don’t mean it! It’s the optics- as soon as they hear the other side, they’ll understand!”

people ants GIF

ANGER- “THESE VILE ANTI- SEMITES! How dare they?! Who do they think they ARE? What would THEY DO if someone ran at them with a machete?? Et tu BETTE MIDLER?? CHELSEA EFFING HANDLER SHUT THE EFF UP!”

Angry Employee Office Destruction GIF
BARGAINING- “We’ve sent aid to Haiti! We sent provisions to Gaza- that they destroyed! We tried rubber bullets, tear gas and threats to the rioters, but still they come! This is Hamas- Hamas are terrorists! We’ve made so many concessions! Oslo! Gush Katif! CHERRY TOMATOES!

i need this please GIF

DEPRESSION: “I can’t do it. I can’t handle everyone hating me. Maybe if I apologize more, maybe if I capitulate more. I can’t handle the back and forth- “liking” pro- Israel posts and angrily fighting the trolls. So many anti-Israel trolls! Where do they come from and why don’t they like us? Why can't they see?"

sad all nighter GIF

ACCEPTANCE: “Wait a second. This wave of hatred also happened in 2012. And 2014. This happens every single time Israel has had the nerve to defend its people. And the haters will always hate, no matter what we say, or how many times, or however eloquently or loudly or calmly. So you know what? I’m gonna shut off Facebook, call my friend Dudu, fire up my electric scooter and go get a falafel while listening to Netta! Yalla BYE!

gal gadot GIF

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

70 Years Young

So it's Yom Hazikaron in Tel Aviv. Tonight, I heard the siren on the bus for the first time. I had always wondered what people riding on a bus did when the remembrance siren that sounds all over the country goes off for a full minute. Well, I don't know what every bus does, but ours stopped mid-street, everyone got out of their seats (driver included) and we stood solemnly, many with tears in our eyes, thinking whatever the siren made us think about.

Normally, I do the (insert number here) things I love most about Israel, but this year I'm going to take a bit of a break from that for several reasons:
1. I have been pretty sick with intense allergies since I got back to Israel. Weirdly, one of the reasons I loved Israel in the past was because I didn't have the killer seasonal allergies I did back in NYC. Whoops, guess I do!
2. After the month away and the allergy plague I was dealing with, I also have to work! And be social! Sadly, the list-making fell by the wayside. And
3. Making a list of over 50 of anything is hard! If I told you right now to make a list of the 50 things you love most about your mom, it would be tough, lemme tell ya. Well I did that twice in a row and starting today I will start collecting 71,  don't you worry! (Feel free to contribute ideas!)

Just decorating my new balcony!

So instead, I will write a love letter to my country and its people:

Dear Israelis,

Thank you for your warmth. Thank you for inviting me and hugging me and caring about me like your own family. Because honestly, I am. Thank you for inviting me to dance and joining me in lchaims! Thank you for dealing with (and not dealing with) my Hebrew and my accent. Thank you for building this amazing place in such a blindingly short period of time. Thank you for making the desert bloom, and helping the world every time it needed it (and being so gracious when the world rarely thanked you.) Thank you for your sons and daughters, and the incredible sacrifices they have made to ensure Israel can endure under incredible pressure.

Dear Israel, 

Thank you for being our sanctuary. Thank you for being the one place in the world where a Jew can be proud to be a Jew, where wearing a kippa won't get you punched, where a kosher meal is just around the corner (and then around the next one), where the calendar is lunar and the holidays have been celebrated by my people for centuries. Thanks you for taking in the survivors of the Shoah and the refugees from the Middle East, the tribes of Ethiopia and and India and the persecuted of the Soviet Union. And though some in America may forget (willfully or not), I will not forget the home you have given to millions of Jews in need, Jews truly escaping from exile.


You are impatient and you are generous to a fault. You are aggressive and you love fiercely. You are argumentative and you are innovative. You hate so much about this country and love it fully. Sometimes you leave because the golden streets of America (or Canada, or London, or Australia) call you, but you always know that this is your home.


You are beautiful and complex, you are so young and you are ancient. You are left and "hard right." You are vegan and you barbecue for every occasion. You are ultra-Orthodox and you are the most progressive country in the region. You are Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but you are also Haifa and the desert and the mountains and Tzfat and Judea and Samaria and all of you is home.

Dearest Israelis,

My blessing to you is limitless success and wealth. May we build together a land so full of material wealth that American Jews come here to build their fortunes! May you continue to grow in number and in joy- may we unify as a people in a land as we were always meant to- one Nation with one heart. And may our differences not tear us apart, may they teach us more about one another. May we realize that we, each other, are the greatest gift we have. And may we celebrate many more smachot together.

Dearest Israel,

My blessing to you is safety and strength. May our holy army remain safe from harm, and may our enemies see no fruits from their terror. May G-d continue to watch over His people and His country, so that in the next 70 years and beyond, we know only peace and happiness. Thank you for welcoming me and thank you for being my Home.

Chag Haatzma'ut Sameach to everyone!