During a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight that carried 233 olim, I waited until nighttime to walk the aisles of the plane. I observed the excitement of the youths joining the IDF. I witnessed the anxiety of parents who were moving their families to live in the promise G-d made thousands of years ago.
I realized the hopes we have for Israel today are the same hopes that filled the Hebrew people when Moses relayed G-d’s message of freedom: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, unto a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17).
Israel was a symbol of hope for the Ethiopian Jews who crossed Sudan to escape death. It was hope for the Russian Jews who escaped oppression and the Yemenite Jews who escaped persecution.
It is a symbol of hope for me, who felt at home among the colorful people of Haaretz. As Israel celebrates 70 years in existence, I am reminded that we are a light unto the nations. Israel is a symbol of hope not only to Jews, but to the world. As the world watches Israel grapple with its own issues, sometimes we disappoint those who look to us as a guide. But there’s always hope, as more Jews call Israel home. Our visions continue to shape Israel’s destiny, giving the world and each other a new start.