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04/28/2020 11:37:32 PM


By: Lisa Septimus

Growing up, I didn't have much of a sense of Israel.

I had never been, didn’t have immediate relatives there, and was terrible at speaking Hebrew. Yet by eighteen I was certain I would live there. 

At eighteen it's common to crave meaning and consistency. I wanted a meaningful life built on complete adherence to and consistency within my values. I believed in the Torah, I loved studying Torah, and the Torah seemed unequivocal in communicating that Jews belonged in their homeland - in Israel. 

But, it wasn't until I went to Poland that I not only considered Israel a homeland, but a home. A guide named Michael Berl told our group about the time he had planned the most magnificent Shabbaton of his career. One which he was certain would be incredibly inspiring, but, when the group arrived at the hotel, a humungous and ornate Christmas tree in the lobby imposed quite negatively on the Shabbos avirah (environment) that they were trying to create. He realized that no matter what programs he planned that Shabbos, the Christmas tree would overshadow everything. But it was more than that. 

He realized that any holidays he celebrated or laws he observed – there would always be a figurative Christmas tree getting in the way. He said Israel was the place where nothing gets in the way.

He was right.  Israel was not only a homeland, it was a place I (and any Jew) could feel at home.

Since that time, I have made countless trips to Israel. Some as short as 48 hours and some as long as 6 weeks.  I have rented homes and cars and led missions. I have close relatives living there and close friends.  I even improved my ability speak (a bit).  I feel comfortable there, at home.  But, I am here in New York.  I am a Shabbaton in a hotel with a Christmas tree. It’s not uncomfortable; it is home.

As religious Zionist Jews in the diaspora we have one homeland but two homes. We hope to feel comfortable in both homes.  We hope to love both.  At the start of Corona I was amazed that on the other side of the world my sister-in-law in Jerusalem was facing the exact same thing that we were. It was alarming in one way, but comforting and connecting in another.  We were raised in one home and taught about our homeland.  But that homeland can also be a home - even if it’s not the place where we live.

By: Lisa Septimus


Sun, June 23 2024 17 Sivan 5784