I always cry when I leave Israel. I left Israel today, unspeakably sad, sobbing in the apartment and then in the monit halfway to the airport (though I withheld primal wailing for fear of scaring my children). For the first time ever, I also cried when my plane landed in America.
My oldest daughter thinks I’m depressed because I have to leave Israel.
I’m not depressed.
I’m losing something precious, something ephemeral, something exceedingly subtle and difficult to explain. Leaving Israel hurts my heart, steals my soul.
This is a very hard time to be a lover of Israel and a Religious Zionist. Right now, there is an undeclared civil war going on. The stakes in this ideological civil war are enormous. There are two visions for what this country will be… and they are on a collision course.
One side loves the Land and understands the holiness inherent in it. In Israel, it is often said, G-d is a local call. Will Israel be a country defined by the Torah and in relationship to G-d?
The other side has a vision of Israel as a nation like all others. Will Israel be a secular, European-esque state for Jews, its specific borders less important than the security of them? This is the side of the current Israeli government.
Will Israel be a Jewish State? Or will it merely be a State for Jews?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston teaches that the Land of Israel is unavoidably holy. One simply cannot live in such a sanctified place and remain ambivalent about it. To live there is to face one essential choice: to connect with the kedusha… or to rebel against it.
The current government of Israel is rebelling against it. How else can I understand that the government sent in police in riot gear, mounted on horses, truncheons swinging, against defenseless Jewish teenagers who love the Land of Israel and wanted to protect nine Jewish homes in Amona while it ignores tens of thousands of illegal Arab and Bedouin dwellings? It is utterly incomprehensible. Except as rebellion against sanctity.
It is from this existential conflict about the very nature of Israel that I must rip myself away. And come to dwell in the Land of Consumerism, fast food, cable TV and ersatz Judaism.
I might more easily rip the skin off my face.