JULIAN RESNICK writes from Israel
I travel a lot with people, especially here in my home of the past 47 years, Israel.
I guide all types of individuals and groups. People who have been here before, but often a long time ago when they were teens, when they were in effect other people. I guide multi-generational family groups, grandparents, their children, and grandchildren. (These are wonderful groups to guide as there is nothing more special – and I say this a grandfather of seven wonderful Israeli little ones – than seeing the pleasure grandparents get as their grandchildren begin to understand, both intellectually and emotionally, where they are and what it is all about. I see them glow with pride as their grandchildren discover that they belong to this foreign place they have traveled to, often from so far away.)
I travel with people who have come here to understand the politics, the history, the biblical context. I love introducing Israel to them and them to Israel, and time and time again I hear the same response from so many of them when I ask them, especially the first timers, what surprised them most about Israel.
No, it is not the lack of camels in the streets; it is not the incredible variety of topography, climate, landscapes in such a tiny country. It is not when they find out that the people around them come from the four corners of the earth (many of them before coming here have not even heard of some of the countries represented by the Jewish People when we came home).
It is not even the amazing hi-tech ecosystem they encounter here – they were sort of expecting it. Many have heard of the “Start Up Nation” before setting out on their journeys.
Most people cannot get over the energy of Israel.
This is a country that has gone through so much. Filled with people who started their lives as refugees or as people who needed to make decisions about their future when times became uncomfortable for the Jews, for us, often in places which had felt like home for so long, which had taken in their parents as refugees from somewhere else, or places whose identities had changed and whose new identities had little place for their Jewish minorities. (Amos Oz famously recounted the story of his father who had grown up in three different countries as a child, but had always slept in the same house as a child.)
This is a country where the newcomers and the old timers alike have lived through so many traumas: The traumas of terror and wars; of painful loss; of periods of great material want and need.
And yet, there is this incredible energy, buoyancy, ability to keep on dancing, singing, partying here, which can be only called extraordinary.
There is a well-known Israeli song which includes a line which in itself is not especially noteworthy but, when placed into the context of what it has meant to live here over the years, can only be called impressive. The line goes,” We will not stop singing”.
A different version of this line once stood on a small memorial in Tel Aviv, which will hopefully return when the city finishes building the new water sports center on the beachfront near the Charles Clore Park (find it on your Google Maps please).
It read, “We will not stop dancing.”
On Friday, June 1st, 2001, during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a line of young people waiting to get into the discotheque in the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium. Twenty-one young people died.
And yet the message was as clear then, through the mist of the incredible pain, as it is today.
We have no choice.
We have to continue both singing and dancing.
Julian Resnick was born in Somerset West and grew up in Habonim Dror. He studied at UCT, and made Aliyah in 1976. He’s conducted numerous shlichuyot and educational missions on behalf of Israel, to Jewish communities in England and the USA. He works as a guide in Israel and around the world (wherever there is a Jewish story). He’s married to Orly, and they have three children and seven grandchildren and is a member of Kibbutz Tzora.
• Published in the October 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.
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