As you can see in the video above, our children danced Israeli dances, sang Israeli songs, made Israeli flags and Hebrew name bracelets, and ate falafel and birthday cake. While the video has some tongue-in-cheek humor to it, the sentiment and mood of the occasion was genuine. We celebrated the Jewish State, the home and heart of the Jewish people, with joy. (Thank you to our teacher, Ilene Goldstein, for making the video).
May it always be so. May the time come when all of our thoughts about Israeli will be about a place that is the embodiment of Jewish community, Jewish values and the fullest expression of Jewish civilization. May we see a time when we only think of Israel with childlike affection and joy.
We all know that, for most American Jews, there is a darker shadow over our thoughts about Israel. We think about her vulnerability to hostile neighbors and we are unsettled by deep fissures in her society between religious and secular, Westerners and Orientals, Jews and Arabs, Right and Left.
Those shadows are real and we don't do Israel any favors by pretending that they don't exist. When you love someone, you love the whole person, not just the parts you find attractive, pleasant and appealing. I want to love all of Israel.
But birthday parties are for celebrating. We need to celebrate the nation, the land and the people that are the heart of the Jewish experience in the contemporary world. Israel is still the homeland that we sought through two thousand years of exile. It is still the one place in the world where Jewish values are put to their truest test. It is still a spiritual home for all Jewish people everywhere, even those who have never been there. It is still the country where the most Jews are born every year. If you love Jews and if you love Judaism, you have to love Israel.