Do you love Israel?

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People often ask me, “Do you love Israel?”

The pat answer is, “Of course I do!”

Truthfully, though, living in Israel is similar to being married.

At the beginning, when you first meet, there are lots of fireworks. The land is beautiful, it beckons. The sun is fantastic, and you barely feel the cold winters. The natives are amazing, helpful, admiring. The bureaucracy is a cinch compared to what you’re used to. The health care system is fantastic (okay, it mostly still is, ten years later).

You’ve finally found your place. *This* is where you want to make your home. *Here* is where you want to raise your children.

You make aliya.

And the sparkles, glitter, passion – they all stay for a time. You feel like you’re doing something important. You’re a pioneer. This is a holy place to live, a holy mission.

You’re part of something greater.

At some point, five, seven, ten years down the line, the passion is gone. (If you work constantly on your marriage – in this case, go on lots of hikes and learn about the land – the passion won’t disappear.)

At the same time, Israel has become so much a part of you, that you can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Bars on your windows are de rigeur. So is laundry hanging out of every window. You get to know the security guard at the mall. The brutally honest – but incredibly loving – native Israelis. The bus drivers, who know you, know each other, and sometimes seem to be hidden tzaddikim (righteous people).

At some point, Israel becomes a part of you. And you become a part of Israel.

You still love your country – but it’s not a fiery love. It’s a calm, clear, consistent sense of belonging.

I am Israel. And Israel is me.

My country isn’t perfect – but no country is. Israel is the best country for me.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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