Monday, December 9, 2013

A Monumental Waste of Time

The bearded men do it all the same.

They shuffle in nervously, survey their audience, and take a deep breath before delivering their pitch. They speak of the closeness to the students, of the freedom their institution so graciously grants, of the array of opportunities afforded.

Some try to be more persuasive by acknowledging the routine nature of these visits. They think they're clever when they skip the logistics and get down to "what really makes their Yeshiva unique." I appear involved, but what they don't know is that I'm carefully observing, almost studying, the wall behind them. It's not that they're entirely uninteresting, although some of them are dreadfully boring, but it's that the very essence of their institutions reminds me of what I've been robbed of.

I've been told that, in order to develop a connection strong enough to keep me in Judaism, I must go to Yeshiva for a year. I've been told that, in order to have the skills for lifelong learning, I must go to Yeshiva for a year. I've been told that, in order to really delve into the deep philosophical questions that perplex each and every Jew, no matter how devout, I must go to Yeshiva for a year.

Well, what the hell have I been doing for the past four years? Wasting my time, evidently. How saddening. Infuriating, really. It would have been so nice had my institution done enough to ensure a lifelong passion for Judaism in, you know, the twelve years I've been here. But, it's become abundantly clear that high school is merely a launching pad for something more.

What the hell have I been doing for the past four years.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Coveted Daughter

Her parents had dedicated their lives to ensuring that one day she would be, but their efforts seemed futile. They had been wanderers, struggling to keep their heads afloat, doing all that they could to not live, but to survive. They had been good people, people dedicated to humanity, people dedicated to the ideals of Democracy, people dedicated to birthing something that would continue their legacy. But, no matter the immensity of their dedication, they were continually opposed, oppressed, and subjugated.

But they did not relent when confronted with opposition, with oppression. Though it was widely considered impossible, they refused to relinquish hope, for they were sure that God was with them. They had always been Godly people, though, as is the same for all Godly people, there were times in their lives when they struggled, when they sinned. Some transgressions were worse than others, and therefore warranted a greater punishment, but they always found their way back to His hands.

And, though their faith was unwavering, it was equally perplexing. It was exceedingly evident that they had little reason to harbor such reverence for a God who time and again allowed the jeopardization of their existence. They prayed and hoped and wished and longed for, but their genuine pleas were ignored. They were successful people, but, for as long as they were being ignored, there was a void in their lives. They had nothing to call their own; nothing to eternalize their existence.

But, one day, she was born in the midst of tragedy, a byproduct of guilt, and a gift of sympathy.

It seemed as though the stars had aligned for her parents, that they could finally be satisfied, feel fulfilled. However, just as soon as she was given life, it was nearly stripped of her. But she persevered. The unwavering persistence of her parents had created an innate element of hope, of courage, within her. She refused to let her life slip away.

Throughout her life, she was oppressed just as her parents once were. At every turn a new enemy was waiting, yearning to extinguish her hope. But, with the spirit of her ancestors rooted within her, she found the strength to elevate to greatness. She became a beacon of hope for her people. She became something tangible that they could connect to. She became our heritage.

In 1948, she, Israel, was born in the midst of tragedy, a byproduct of guilt, and a gift of sympathy. And now, at 65, she has exceeded expectations and become something great, something worthy of pride, something we should never fail to appreciate.

She is our home. She is our connection. She is worthy of our defense, of our undying support, and our passionate love.

עם ישראל חי

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Response to J-Street

An Op-Ed regarding J-Street was passed along to me recently, and I found it quite disturbing. Here is the link to the Op-Ed:

I urge you to read it before examining my response.

One of my many criticisms of the J-Street movement was alluded to several times throughout this Op-Ed by AJ Sibley, a Sophomore at Princeton University. Sibley is calling for others to join him, "to rise up for peace and pressure our public officials (American officials) to continue to push for a final resolution to this conflict: a two-state solution." Peace is the goal, but to neglect the desires of the Israeli people and attempt to forcefully reform Israeli policies in order to push one's personal agenda, an agenda that is not in line with the views of Israeli citizenry, and is rooted in exceedingly dovish ideology, is, to me, both morally and ethically wrong, and is characteristic of a biased, wavering support of the Jewish homeland. 

To place pressure on America, the country Israel so heavily leans on for economic and military support, in order to reform desired Israeli policies for the sake of actualizing one’s own ideal Israel not only opens up the possibility of implementing detrimental reforms, but it would quite possibly lead to an unprecedented contentious relationship between Israel and her strongest ally. The purpose of America’s allegiance with Israel is not to apply pressure on her government so to implement policies favorable in the eyes of American constituents; the purpose of America’s allegiance with Israel is to offer absolute support of the core policies of the Israeli government, especially those policies that keep the Israeli people safe. 

Though I understand the opposition to the “blindly supportive or bust” mentality of many extremist proponents of Israel, I find it disconcerting to push one's agenda on American officials by means of pressure, especially when one is pressuring for policies that are not in the best interest of the existence of the State of Israel. As advocates of Israel, we are not obligated to agree with all of her policies. In fact, there is benefit in being critical, for it leads to a deeper, more well-rounded understanding of the conflict. However, it is purely illogical to advocate for policy reforms that will jeopardize the existence of the Jewish state. Israel, entirely justified in its reluctance to wholeheartedly engage in negotiations with the Palestinians, has leaders who have the best interest of her people in mind. It is not the right of the American people to strong-arm the Israeli government through the generation of American political pressure. That type of approach fails to take into account the position of the majority of the Israeli population, and serves to solely push the leftist agenda on a government more concerned with protecting its people than creating foolishly dovish policies. 

The strongest proof to bring to this discussion is history. By examining various peace offers and rejections, you will find that negotiations with people who refuse to accept the very existence of the State of Israel is entirely futile. Perhaps my most significant criticism of J-Street is the fact that it inexplicably fails to acknowledge the fact that the Palestinian rejectionist attitude is at the core of failed peace negotiations.
Our reluctance and apprehension regarding negotiations is not baseless. In one of Israel's most recent attempts at negotiating peace, the 2000 Camp David Summit, she offered the Palestinian people all of the West Bank, 97% of Gaza, and 30 billion dollars to fund the housing and medical care of displaced Palestinian peoples. The Palestinians responded with the Second Intifada. Even more recently, after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Israel was repaid with continuous rocket fire aimed at nearby Israeli settlements. Over the years, Israel has made many overtures, several that have risked the safety of her people, in order to attain peace. But those previous peace negotiations have not only failed, they have opened the door to further endangerment of the Israeli people. 

"Seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not idealistic —  it’s imperative." 

I couldn't agree more. The Israeli government couldn't agree more, though there is a debate regarding what the parameters of that solution should be. It is the right of Israel, and any sovereign nation, to devise a plan that satisfies widespread popular desire and protects its people. It is not, however, the right of the American people to interfere with that process because of a personal agenda.

Again, it is not only morally wrong to push one's agenda on Israel's biggest ally, an agenda that could eventually jeopardize the existence of the State of Israel, but it is foolish to so strongly pursue a two state solution that has proven itself impossible without the Palestinians doing something as simple as noting our right to exist as a sovereign nation. A two state solution is the goal, advocates from both J-Street and StandWithUs can agree on that, but there is an appropriate method of pursuing that peace, and a time to pursue it. Until we are dealing with a government that prioritizes independence and peace over violence and claims to the land, a resolution is merely a dream. 

Rooted beneath the misconception of being pro-Israel is an organization whose goal is to push its own liberal agenda on Israel and her people, despite the fact that Israel’s reluctant stance on negotiations is both justified and supported by its citizenry. This disagreement comes down to such a fundamental truth: We are Americans. It is our duty to defend the ideology of, and advocate for, the land of Israel. That being said, it is not our right to take advantage of Israel’s dependence on America by means of generating political pressure in order to push an undesired liberal agenda on the Israeli government. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Perfection of Being Imperfect

I am not perfect. I have wronged, I have lied, I have belittled, and I have cheated. I have done inexcusable things, committed unforgivable acts, and negatively affected a number of lives. You, believe it or not, are also not perfect. Odds are, you have lied, belittled, and cheated. We humans are inherently imperfect beings. Throughout the course of my life, I’ve developed an understanding of perfection as being unattainable. I’ve come to grips with the fact that imperfection is reality. That being said, I have come to believe that there is a certain sense of rightness that comes with being imperfect. That belief has given me the will to see good in life, has helped restore my faith in God, and has given me a reason to endlessly pursue self-actualization.

I’ve longed wondered why our God, a perfect God, would create a world riddled with crime, murder, and deceit. I’ve long wondered why our God would create a Jew whose nature prohibits him from living a perfect Torah life. I understand that we’ve been graced with free will, but that explanation doesn’t examine why God didn’t create the human race as being perfect beings in a world void of imperfection, thus giving us free will, but eliminating the possibility of making imperfect choices. Furthermore, Jews are taught that we have been created in the image of God, from which we can reasonably infer that being comparable to God is accompanied by God’s unequivocal perfection. But we know that is not the case.

I am no Torah scholar, of that I have no doubt. However, I am fortunate enough to be a member of a religion that allows one to explore, create, and favor various answers to complex questions such as this one. In my study of the works of Rabbi David Aaron, I have come to terms with being imperfect, and I have learned to see the value within being flawed.

To me, it is not at all heretical to question if God made a mistake during His creation of mankind. Not only would absolute perfection be easier for mortals, but it would make for an easier divine reign as well. This world, a world in which the good die young, the undeserving are unjustifiably punished, and awful things happen to righteous people, doesn’t appear to be a world created by the God that we all so revere. It’s difficult to concede that our God is perfect without examining why He created such an undeniably imperfect world.

In a perfect world, I would never have tried to lie my way out of an unfortunate situation in ninth grade. In a perfect world, my family would sit down together for dinner every night. In a perfect world, religion wouldn’t be so confusing and burdensome. There would be no war. There would be no sickness. There would be no bad. That may sound ideal, but without all of those imperfections, where is the opportunity to grow? Where is the opportunity to seek something greater than ourselves? Where is the opportunity to find meaning in this life?

The reason I view imperfection as being okay is because it gives me a reason to strive to better myself. I do lie, I have cheated, and I am oftentimes deceitful. And, as a way of trying to better myself, I’ve come to accept these negative traits, and subsequently vowed to correct them. Those flaws have given my life meaning. My imperfections have created goals, they’ve given me a reason to live.

I once struggled mightily with this question. At one point, it pushed me to the brink of giving up on God. But when I came to realize that imperfections are necessary to inspire meaning and goals, I saw the beauty within this chaotic world. Had I not lied in ninth grade, I would never have decided to transform myself as a student. If my family was perfect, I wouldn’t be close to the person I am today. If religion wasn’t so confusing, then how on earth could it be so exciting and thought provoking? Without imperfection, there would be no advancement. We would be a boring, stagnant people.

For those of you struggling with this very question, I am by no means suggesting that my answer is the correct one. There is no correct answer. But the beauty of Judaism is that you can find an answer that best suits you. This one best suits me.

I will continue to lead an imperfect life within this imperfect world that our perfect God has created. I will do so with a deeper appreciation for imperfections, for I now understand that God has given us the opportunity to find meaning in our lives. God has given us a reason to live. God has created imperfection so that those who genuinely desire a better world will emerge to change the course of history. So, if you’re not perfect, don’t fret. None of us are, and that’s perfectly okay.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We Shall Persevere

I have long held the belief that I am not ordinary. I see myself as a unique human being with unique passions, unique beliefs, and a unique story. However, Wednesday morning was the first time since I was a suffering child struggling to find my identity that I've felt entirely ordinary. The college application process has surfaced deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy that I was previously unaware of. The process has resiliently attempted to strip me of the distinctions that have long made me feel unique. But I shall persevere. I shall not let this viciously competitive process restrain me from feeling like the special person that I am.

Before this year, I had never doubted myself academically. I had never questioned my intelligence. But, considering I did not reach my goal of attaining a top tier ACT score, I've begun to question not only my standardized test taking ability, but my academic abilities as a whole. Though I know these doubts are merely the byproduct of a flawed system, I can't help but wonder if those standardized tests serve as legitimate evaluations of my intelligence. Before I get too consumed in the world of 1400's and 32's, I must stop to consider how capable I am in a traditional classroom setting. In terms of work ethic, reasoning ability, and quality of work, I consider myself to be college-ready. Despite that hard and cruel number that inevitably makes me doubt myself, I must look past it and recognize that I am more than capable in a traditional, year-long course. I will not let myself fail.

I consider myself to be someone who takes on an exceptional number of extra-curriculars. But, it seems, my accomplishments pale in comparison to those who are working as professor's assistants, interning for Supreme Court justices, doing groundbreaking cancer research, or writing books about the flaws of America's current educational system. Being reasonable, I know that the vast majority of Americans are not boasting accomplishments comparable to these, but this is a competitive process. Those interns could potentially eliminate me from consideration at a top tier college. That authorship could be the deciding factor between me and a young woman from Michigan. But, what I must keep in mind is that I am entirely unique, and bring a great deal to the table in those activities that I do participate in. I must not pursue extra curricular for the sake of bolstering my resume. I must pursue my passions and participate in those activities that I both enjoy and see the long-term value in. I must not reach a point where I am willing to relinquish my values and interests for the sake of making myself appear more impressive on a piece of paper.

One of the most difficult aspects of this process has been writing my college essay. To perfectly capture the unique person I am, the story I have, and the passions and values that I hold is a daunting task. I went through a number of prompts and drafts, falling in love with none of them. Though I've finally decided on one, I cannot be entirely satisfied with it because I see it as impossible to convey the person I am and the things that I am capable of in 650 words or less. Though the essay is both enjoyable and beneficial in that it gives admissions officers the chance to see the person you are, it is still immensely difficult to put that person on paper. But I must do my best. I must work to find a way to articulate the person I am and the things that I've been through. And, though it may be from the perspective of my red power ranger, I feel I have almost perfectly captured my story after many, many tries.

Every senior has been warned of the hardship and pressure that comes with applying to college. But you never truly understand the pressure until you're immersed in it. What I've gathered from this process is that you have to persevere, you have to remain true to yourself, and you have to find a way to maintain that sense of uniqueness. Nobody in the world is you. Nobody can bring the same things to the table. Nobody can pursue the exact same passions and bring the same change. I am - you are - we are all entirely unique people, and we must never relinquish that sense of independence and self-pride, even when battling a system that seems to stop at nothing to strip us of what makes us feel special.

We shall persevere.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Revolution

As we neared the entrance of the Old City, I made sure to observe her reaction. I had experienced the Old City in all of its beauty before, but she hadn’t. I had experienced that moment when the undeniable presence of God hits you like a freight train, but she hadn’t. I understood the history, the importance, and the holiness of this magnificent city and the Western Wall it surrounded, but she didn’t. I had experienced Friday night prayers, but she hadn’t. I was Orthodox, but she was Reform. But none of that mattered.

We rushed in, tiptoeing around the thousands of others making their way to the Kotel for Friday night prayers. We passed the various shops, full of meaningless items meant to attract deep-pocketed tourists, but that didn’t excite her. We made our way through what seemed like the most complex of mazes, but that didn’t interest her. Finally, after minutes of following the crowd full of Chassidim, Orthodox, tourists, and non-observant Jews, we were released just in front of the stairs that led down to the Kotel. And there it was, the reaction I was waiting for. She gazed out at the thousands of people, some Reform, some Conservative, some Orthodox, some Chassidish, and some merely tourists, and was noticeably taken aback by the inexplicably powerful gathering of Jews. Once we passed security, we headed down to the Kotel for Mincha. We were alone, but that didn’t discount our excitement.

I found myself comfortable within a group of flamboyant Yeshiva students. There were several moments when I would break from the singing and dancing to stare at the large Israeli flag waving behind the partition, soaking in the beautiful unity and undeniable glory of Israel and its inhabitants. When it came time for the Amidah, I maneuvered my way to the Kotel, reaching out to touch it as I prepared to pour my heart out to God. I found it difficult to push through the full-body gowns and streimels, but I eventually arrived at a spot that sufficed. As I began the Amidah, I felt numerous people surrounding me. I looked about and noticed that I was being brushed by a Chassid on one side, an Orthodox child from behind, and a tourist on the other side. I looked further right and saw two soldiers praying with their guns around their waists. To my left I saw an older man in jeans and a t-shirt, no yarmulka, slamming his right arm against the Kotel, immersed in such powerful prayer that he paid no mind to the pain he was bringing himself. When I finished, I turned around and took it all in. I recognized the beauty of the Jewish people like I never had before. I marveled at the fact that there were so many different sects praying together within one relatively miniscule area. I felt so proud to be a Jew. I felt as though my vision of having a religion united by the simple distinction of being Jewish was truly actualized and on full display.

When I met back up with my friend, she told me that she had enjoyed a similar experience. Though she didn’t shed tears like me, she felt immensely connected to Judaism while immersed in that type of multi-sect setting. That night only reaffirmed my passion for building bridges between the Jewish youth in the Memphis Jewish community. Since I wrote my article about being open minded to inter-mingling with Jews of different sects, I’ve seen vast progress. I’ve introduced many of my Orthodox friends to my Reform and Conservative friends. I’ve supported and planned events that have allowed our community to get a glimpse into their community. And, most recently, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful Shabbat dinner with both my Orthodox and Reform and Conservative friends. I could bore you with the details about the dinner, but I’d rather focus in on the deeper meaning of this momentous event. Two years ago, I never would have imagined seeing my Orthodox peers sitting at a Shabbat table with members of BBYO. Though it may have been a vision, I never imagined it would actualize. But look at how far we’ve come. Look at how open minded we’ve become. Look at the misconceptions we’ve since resolved.

Reaching out to the other communities of Memphis is not only socially beneficial, but it’s religiously beneficial as well. By showing the Reform and Conservative Jews of Memphis how passionate we are about traditional Judaism, we may just influence them to pursue deeper knowledge of Orthodoxy. We are in a unique position to positively influence hundreds of teenagers that are more-or-less just like us. We can assist them in finding their connection to Judaism. This past weekend was about so much more than a simple dinner. It was a symbol of the current revolution the Jewish youth of Memphis are participating in. It was a symbol of Jewish unity.

Though the dining hall of Anshei is certainly not the Kotel, being there reminded me of that Friday night experience this summer. It reminded me of my time spent helping a Reform friend connect to Judaism in her own way. It reminded me of being surrounded by Jews of all different backgrounds and beliefs. It reminded me that, though there is still much tension and disagreement between the sects, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. There is hope for a flag of unity blowing in the wind. There is reason to believe that we may one day be perfectly happy with being brushed by a Chassid, Conservative, Reform, tourist, or non-affiliated Jew. There is hope that one day we will unite as one nation - the chosen nation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Find Your Voice

I keep telling myself I'll change. I keep examining what it is about me that makes me imperfect. I endlessly pursue a way to fill the voids within me. And the moment I stop doing these things is the moment I stop living.

This world has no room for perfection. With perfection comes normality, and with normality comes the end of uniqueness. The purpose of my being is to perpetually pursue a way to unmask the me I want to be. I will never attain self-actualization, but I refuse to stop trying.

Something that has helped me immensely in my process of introspection has been this blog. I've had the chance to have an outlet for my thoughts - thoughts I consider unique. When I first started writing, I expected a small number of people to take note. But when I publicized on social media, the reaction was overwhelming. So many people found my opinions to be so fascinating, and I couldn't quite understand why. After months of pondering this question, I think I've found my answer.

We all have a story. We all have opinions. We all have passions. But not all of us are open, or even able to express these things.

Since I wrote the piece about my best friend coming out of the closet, numerous people, many of whom are Orthodox homosexuals themselves, have reached out to me to compliment my courage.

What courage?

The courage to type a few words onto a computer screen? The courage to express opinions that I know will rile people up? The courage to share my thoughts?

My so-called courage pales in comparison to the courage of out homosexuals living in an often rejectionist Orthodox world. They've undergone introspection that I could never dream of. Their self-confidence is inexplicably superior to mine. They are the ones who deserve to be showered with praise, because they are the ones that motivate me to share these thoughts.

It's not only out homosexuals. It's all of those people who aren't fearful of expressing their beliefs. It's those people who have no shame in who they are and what ideals they stand by. We all have a story to tell, and maybe if each of us shared we'd appreciate what it means to be happy, to be fortunate, far more.

When we share, we have no idea how much of an impact it can have. We may be touching lives on the other side of the globe. By sharing our stories, we are not only letting others in, but we are taking significant strides toward picking apart what makes us, us.

I urge you all to find your voice. To express your opinions. To firmly defend your beliefs. To share your story. You don't know who it could touch. You don't know how many lives you could change.

Have I displayed a sense of courage? Relative to others, I suppose you could make that argument, although I'd likely disagree. But does my openness help me grow as a person? Absolutely.

I love sharing with you all. I love that you value my opinion, or at least care enough to see it. I love how much this blog has impacted some people. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that authoring this blog was one of the most beneficial things I've ever done - beneficial to me, and beneficial to those sufferers who found something they could relate to in my words.

The reason I write so strongly about expression now is because I am just on the heels of receiving my 10,000th view. I wouldn't write if I wasn't inspired to do so. I wouldn't share if I didn't believe in what I was preaching. And I wouldn't have an outlet had you all not given me a chance.

It's with immense excitement that I say thank you for making this endeavor a success. Thank you for hearing my voice, and please stop at nothing to find your own.

Monday, August 26, 2013

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Dear Seth, 

As I sit here, I'm struggling to grasp that this is really happening. For all of my life, I've brushed off the thought of you leaving because I never wanted to confront the reality of you actually having to. Whenever a sibling has left the house, I knew it would be okay because I would have you there with me. But now I'm lost. I feel like I'm drowning. And I don't know how to resurface. 

I really don't know what to say right now. I've never had to do something this hard. You've always been the one who's put me in my place when need be. You've always been the one who's made me smile when I'm frustrated. You've always been the one who's made me feel confident, safe, and never alone. 

Throughout all of the trials of our childhood, you were right there next to me. We faced everything together. We formed the same friendships. We share the same memories. We tell the same stories. For us, there will never be a goodbye. I know you will be in my life until the day I die. 

Though you may not have noticed, you have served as my role model for the past seventeen years. 

One of the most important things that you've imparted on me is that it's okay to be comfortable with emotional expression. After years of observation, I began to realize that you approached emotions far differently than we were taught to. You were never one to suppress your emotions, despite the fact that we were raised to do so. When you were sad, you'd make it known. When you were happy, you'd make it known. When you were mad, you'd make it very well known. I remember when I called you a name one too many times and you punched me in the eye. Suffice it to say that your comfort with emotional expression, be it physical or verbal, left a very strong, and sometimes visible, impression on me. 

Seven Goldsteins. That's far more than the world is fit to handle. Though each and every one of us shares an unbreakable bond, it's no secret that you, me, and Avi have always been the trio. We've spent the majority of our lives together. The stories we share are endless. From the late night talks, to the sneaking out, to the trifectas, to the inexplicably ridiculous things we've done, we've always had a relationship of optimal closeness. I would go to both of you for anything, because I know that you'll be there for me, no matter what. But with all due respect to Avi, you and I have always shared a bond of superior closeness. We're a mere fifteen months apart. You've been in the grade above me for my entire life. We took baths together. We shared a room together (well, until my late night power-ranger playing pushed you to the brink of insanity and you tragically moved out). We rode bikes together. We consoled each other when things were bad in the house. We hit each other. We hated each other. We loved each other. I somewhat feel as if you have lived my life, and I have lived yours. We've gone through our ups and our downs, but I never once doubted that you were there for me. 

Something that I've always admired about you is your ability to walk into a room of one hundred people, and walk out with ninety eight new friends. I've always strived to emulate your outgoing nature. I have never once seen you doubt yourself, nor have I seen you too afraid to generate a conversation with a complete stranger. You have this charm about you that captures the heart of every person you meet. It's that same charm that ensures me that, no matter how well you do in school, one day you will end up far more successful than anyone else I know. You are indubitably the most likable person I have ever known. 

I have to thank you for something. You've always challenged me to be the best Gabriel Goldstein I could be. When we were younger, we played basketball together. I remember you pinching my nipples, forcing me to smile when I would get down on myself or frustrated. You've always pointed out when I'm being irrational. You've always told me to straighten up and cool down. Of the multitude of factors that have motivated me to get my frustration and anger under control, your influence was one of the most integral. Considering you're the epitome of "level headed," it was easy to just act according to your example. 

Another admirable character trait of yours is your ability to always be free-spirited and jovial. Very rarely have I seen little things break your spirit, or throw your day off. You have this attitude where the world is in your hands, and you are the ever-clever king. Having you around, both in the home and at school, has added a much needed element of excitement to my life. Whether it be singing and dancing in the car ride home from school, saying ridiculous things in ridiculous voices, going on spontaneous adventures, or just hilarious, though immature flashes of insanity, we've always managed to have a great time together. While I was doing school work and obsessing over attaining perfection, you were going to sleep before sunset. Now, it's quite clear to me that we aren't entirely similar, and that will likely never be who I am, but I do wish I could take it easy and just not care about some things like you do. 

You're short. I'm relatively tall. You're bulky. I'm slim. You're perpetually lighthearted. I'm often serious. You're immeasurably outgoing. I have to exert effort to make friends. You dislike sports. I love them. School isn't really your thing. School is very much my thing. What I am getting at here is that we are essentially opposites. We share different interests, different hobbies, and different strengths. Yet, despite all of the reasons in the world to not be so close, we've managed to become what we are: inseparable. I understand that many siblings can characterize their relationships as just that, but I'm not so sure they deserve to as much as we do. So many hardships and low points in our lives have molded us together more-so than most other siblings. Despite our dissimilarities, we have managed to warm up nicely to each other. That's a testament to just how important family is to both of us. It wouldn't matter to me if you were green, mentally handicapped, and animalistic, I would still take a bullet for you. You're the one who's been right there with me through every life experience. You're the one I've always turned to. You're the one I look up to.

When people ask me who my best friends are, I always include you. For some reason, that surprises them. They ponder how my best friend could also be my brother. They often tell me how cute it is that I  said that. But I've never understood that. How is that at all cute? It's simply true. We don't have the typical little brother-big brother relationship. We are separated only by age. We feel mutually comfortable asking each other for help. We've shared great times, sad times, bad times, and euphoric times. We've always been there for each other. We've always been mere feet away. So, what is cute about that? Nothing. If I were to describe our friendship in one word, I would use "improbable." It's not often that you find brothers who get along so well - who share the same friends so smoothly. You hated the fact that I was friends with "your" friends in Junior High. But, as time went on, "your" friends became our friends. You always looked out for me during the very delicate first years of high school. You made sure to reach out to me, include me, and make sure I felt comfortable. Some of the greatest times I've ever had in school were the times we met up in the halls during class by chance. We would sit in the bathroom and mess around. Things were so simple. I feel now that I took our last year for granted. Contrary to my final year with Eli, I do have regrets in this relationship. I regret not having spent more time with you. I regret not having asked you to hang out on a regular basis. I regret not having spent my final months nagging the hell out of you until you had no choice but to be my friend.

We woke up for school one morning last year. You walked into my room and coaxed me into going back to sleep. After you told me that we'd sleep for just a few more hours, you proceeded to crawl into bed next to me. Some may find our snuggle-filled morning strange. But I think that story perfectly characterizes our relationship. We're weird. We're controversial. We're awesome. And we're really, really close. I regret not having you over for more sleepovers this past year.

Today has been so strange.

I keep waiting for you to open the door and come upstairs.

I've checked your room many times since you left. I walk in, look around, realize the depressing nothingness, choke down tears, and walk out.

Driving in your car is even a struggle.

I tried to play basketball to ease my sadness. When that didn't work, I decided to eat my pain away. I'm not going to endorse that as an appropriate coping mechanism, but it did certainly help me.

This year is going to be inexplicably strange. If we're being honest, I'm not scared; I'm terrified. I don't know what to expect without you here. I don't know who I will turn to when I need help. I don't know who to annoy when I'm bored. I don't know who to look to for guidance. I don't know if I'm ready to accept that this is how it will be from now on.

Stepping away from my pity party, I'd like to commend you. I'd like to inform you of how proud of you I am. Through everything that we've done together, you've always excelled. You've not only pushed yourself to succeed in every walk of life, but you've pushed those around you to succeed as well. You are the epitome of selfless. You have all of the characteristics of a model soldier. You are about to embark on a journey that few have the fortune of experiencing. You're about to do the most admirable thing there is. To leave your home, your family, your girlfriend, and Honey to pursue a life of superior meaning - that is something to admire. I am so proud of the person you have become. You've stared obstacles in the face, conquered them, and even ended up in Sports Illustrated.

I've always been good with words, but I don't think I will ever be able to convey how much I love you. How proud of you I truly am. How much I will miss you. You have been my role model for my entire life. And though you are moving far away, you will continue to serve as my hero. You haven't left for nothing - you've left to protect the homeland of your people. You've left to join forces with your siblings in an effort to ensure that our homeland remains our eternal homeland. You've left to do something I can only dream of doing myself.

So here is to the car rides home, the late nights spent talking, the projectile vomit, the conquering of obstacles, the baseball days, the basketball brawls, the failed cooking lessons, the bathroom hangouts, and all of the other unforgettable memories we've made together in these past seventeen years.

I'll find the strength to resurface. I'll adjust to a life without you, despite my not wanting to. But I will never forget the amazing times we've spent together. I will never stop loving you to the end of the world and back.

Thank you for helping to make me the person I am. You will always be in my heart, my mind, and my prayers. Stay safe and come home soon.

I love you.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Come StandWithUs

As I walked into the Beit Midrash for Mincha, I felt as if it was just a normal day. I was heading to my seat when I felt my phone vibrate. When I pulled it out and checked who was calling, I was taken aback by the fact that it was my brother Avi. I thought it was odd that he was calling in the middle of the week. At the time, he was finishing special forces training for his IDF unit, Orev Givati. It was uncommon for him or any soldier at that stage to make phone calls during the week. Though his calling stopped me in my tracks, I quickly picked up, expecting the same old lighthearted conversation. Looking back, that expectation was beyond naive.

Israel was in the midst of Operation Pillar of Defense, and tensions were at their peak. Troops were lined up at the border of Gaza, fully equipped and prepared to enter into an all-out land war with the Hamas-controlled Palestinians. Though I was attentively following the unfolding events at the time, I still somehow failed to register that Avi’s calling me was more than just odd. It was alarming.

I picked up his call expecting to have a quick conversation consisting of pleasantries and brotherly banter. I expected to hang up happy. But the conversation we had left me stupefied, almost speechless. Avi told me that he, too, was on the border preparing to enter Gaza. He went on to explain that the army was collecting soldiers’ phones to protect itself from militant hackers. He concluded the conversation by telling me that it was quite possibly the last one we would have for a long time. Overcome with emotions, I struggled to fight off tears as we said our goodbyes.

I’m not one who often connects to prayer. But that day was different. After our phone call, I felt more helpless than I ever had before in my life. My brother was preparing to risk his life for his country - our country. And there I was in a Beit Midrash in Memphis, Tennessee. I couldn’t give my body to my country. I felt I had nothing to offer. So I turned to God. As I called out to God for guidance, I felt tears streaming down my face. They made their way down my cheek and dripped onto the Siddur in my hands. The moment they splashed onto the words of Shema Koleinu, I had an epiphany. I came to the realization that I wasn’t entirely helpless.

That day motivated me to take a step back and evaluate my love for Israel. I began to think that my calling it “home” wasn’t entirely just. After all, my fellow Jews, my brother included, were risking their lives to protect our homeland. But what was I doing? Nothing.

I felt it was my duty to take it upon myself to fight the intellectual aspect of Israel’s war. I came to the decision to pursue an opportunity that would allow me not to defend my country physically, but intellectually; to defend it from anti-Israel sentiment here, in America.

Over the course of Junior year, I formed a close relationship with an employee for one of the largest, most well known Israel advocacy organizations in America: StandWithUs. When she first suggested that I pursue an internship with the acclaimed organization, I figured it would be a nice, polishing touch to my college resume. However, after feeling that helpless, I decided to pursue the internship for what I view as all of the right reasons. After that phone call, my pursuit was motivated by something far deeper than accolades. I pursued, and eventually attained, the internship because I wanted - no, because I needed to do whatever I could to defend the country I so passionately proclaim as “home.”

As part of my internship requirements, I am expected to fly to California twice a year for a conference with my fellow interns. At the first conference of the year, I was blown away by how professional and effective the StandWithUs employees were. They conducted various presentations, highlighting positive aspects of Israel, arming us with information to use when trying to win over the hearts of those who are entirely uneducated regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What I found to be most beneficial was a presentation entitled “Israel 101.” The presentation gave a very clear and concise overview of the history of the Middle East conflict. Following that presentation, I felt many personal misconceptions regarding the conflict had been resolved. Additionally, the StandWithUs team presented an array of common anti-Israel arguments, and gave us the ammunition to formulate and deliver our own counterarguments. Not only did the StandWithUs team educate us about Israel, but they imparted the tools and techniques necessary to combat anti-Israel sentiment.

While talking to the CEO of this phenomenal non-profit organization, Roz Rothstein, I was in awe at the fact that what had become such a large and influential organization was born a mere twelve years ago in the living room of a Los Angeles home. Fed up with American Jewry’s passiveness during the Second Intifada, Rothstein and her husband took it upon themselves to create an organization that would educate Americans about Israel, hoping that it would inspire even a few American Jews to act in Israel’s defense. One couple’s living room vision has grown into one of the most prominent Israel advocacy organizations in the world, with offices in London, America, and Israel. As StandWithUs grew, Rothstein’s influence reached a charitable organization called the MZ Foundation. With the MZ Foundation’s generosity and passion for Israel, it partnered with StandWithUs to create a program that recruited and trained high school students, preparing them for the often hostile anti-Israel sentiments they were to meet on college campuses. I was lucky enough to reap the benefits of Rothstein’s vision and the MZ Foundation’s passion-driven generosity.

After that phone call with Avi, I knew it was my responsibility to do whatever I could for my country. I also knew that I needed an outlet. With the help of StandWithUs, I now have the opportunity to change the way Memphians, both Jews and gentiles alike, feel about our eternal homeland. With a fiery passion for the truth, backed by an organization’s devotion to Israel advocacy, I feel as though the sky's the limit in terms of what is possible for this coming year. We owe it to the millions of soldiers that risk their lives for God’s land - our land - every day. We owe it to Avi Goldstein, Avi Thomas, Aharon Cooper, and all of the other Memphians who have so valiantly left the comfort and convenience of their homes to pursue a life of far more difficulty, yet far superior meaning. So please, come and StandWithUs.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

To My Brother

Dear Eli,

I remember chasing you around the school field when we were little kids. I forgot exactly what you'd done, but I think you wronged my brother in some way. But look how far we've come.

I remember playing basketball in your mini basketball court. I remember our biker gang. I remember the day you got your license; we all felt like the world was at our fingertips. I remember the end of tenth grade when we all marveled at the fact that we had just one year left together. I remember crying in a passionate embrace at Camp Chi. I remember graduation night, a night where sorrow turned to euphoria. I remember consoling myself, calming my worries by noting that we still had the summer left to spend together.

And I'll always remember the night I had to say goodbye.

I've said goodbye to people before. I've cried when walking away. But I've never felt quite like this. You see, this isn't just the end of our time together - it's the end of a generation. It's the end of me walking into your house to mess with you. It's the end of us changing clothes. It's the end of an era.

Man, we've done some unspeakable things. I mean, things so ridiculous and wrong that it makes me cringe to think about them. No matter what we've done together these past few years, we've always managed to have a great time. When we would all get together to hang out, I was fully confident that I would spend my night laughing my guts out. High school is sort of confusing. Whenever I think about leaving, I'm somewhat conflicted. As much as I want to move on with my life, I don't know if I'm ready to leave behind all of the amazing memories. When I recount all of the unforgettable nights I've had in high school thus far, the same people are there. You, me, Asher, Seth, and Bryan. The crew. The gang. The boys. But now we're all moving on, we're going our separate ways. And while I'm so happy for you, for all of y'all, I can't help but wish that it didn't have to be this way. I've never felt as strong of a bond as I feel with all of you guys.

I keep thinking about how strange it will be to see your car in the street without you as the driver. I can't really wrap my head around the fact that when I break into your house through your window, you won't be there anymore. No more making fun of your inexplicably small ears. No more going out for "ice cream." No more unforgettable nights.

The one bright spot I'm able to see tonight is that I don't regret anything from this past year. In your final year, we got closer. We often shifted from the childish conversations and mustered up the seriousness to talk about substantive things. We did new things, stupid things, boring things, and pointless things. We took full advantage of the remaining time we had left. And for that, I am infinitely grateful.

It's funny looking back at that day I chased you around the field. Because if someone wronged you now, I would chase them around a school field. Because you see, you've become my brother.

You've become my family.

People often tell me how far I've come despite having a difficult childhood. I've never really known how to respond. But I've always known what to think. I think about you. I think about your family. You've had it far worse than I have. And somehow you've overcome the seemingly endless obstacles in your life. Not only have you conquered everything that's been thrown at you, but you've grown into a wonderful young man. So when people tell me how amazing my overcoming the obstacles has been, I always feel they should be telling you just that. You've become a role model - somebody I consistently strive to emulate. You've become a loyal, caring, and considerate young man. I've watched you set an amazing (though not perfect) example for Simcha and Rena. And I'm always touched by how proud your mother is of you. What I've overcome pales in comparison to what you've conquered. I am merely someone who has made the best out of a bad situation. You are a true role model.

When I say that I'd do anything for you, that's not an empty statement. I really, really would. I know that few people will come along in life and show you what loyalty really means. I know that you, all of y'all, are blessings.

So saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I tried to fight back the tears, but some things are stronger than human will. As I drove away, I looked at your car - your old, beat up, crappy car. I thought about all of the amazing nights that have started in that car. I realized that, though you're leaving and an era is coming to a close, the memories we've made together will never be forgotten.

I know you're headed places. I can already see the success that you are bound to attain. Just know that throughout the next stage of your life, I will be there for you just as you've always been there for me. And trust me, you're not getting rid of me.

You will be the best man at my wedding. You will come to my first son's Bris. You will remain my brother for the rest of my life.

As I prepare to go to sleep, I'm comforted by the fact that our goodbye was perfect. The last words I'll utter to you face to face in quite some time could not have been more fitting.

"I love you."

I really do. You are my brother now and forever.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Can't Let Go

They cruised down Highway 65 with the windows down and the music turned up. In high school, they had pledged to meet up annually to take a road trip to a little lake in Branson, Missouri. Though they had both thought they had moved on since, the lake in Branson was where they had shared their first and only kiss. 

They kept in touch after high school, further developing their friendship into one of immense closeness. They went to each other for everything that meant anything.

But times were changing. 

This was likely the last trip to Branson they’d share together. He was getting married in October, and, though they were strictly friends, his fiancé would surely not appreciate their trips spent in seclusion. They were well aware that the tradition was coming to an end, that their lives were likely headed in different directions. So they were determined. They were determined to make their final trip together their most memorable. 

Upon arrival, they held true to the schedule they’d always followed. But they decided to make one revision. They decided that there was no time to waste, that sleep would do nothing but bar them from spending what was likely their final true alone time together. They ventured out to the nearest gas station, bought a twelve pack of beer, found the perfect plot of land for a bonfire, and prepared to stay up until the sun rose over the lake they’d come to love. 

She was beautiful. At least he’d always thought so. She had curly blonde hair and blue eyes. He had scruffy brown hair with green eyes. She was a musician struggling to make it big. He was an accountant confined to a career of endless monotony. Despite their polar opposite personalities, they had managed to forge a friendship that once seemed unbreakable. 

The two of them spoke of fond memories from the adolescence they had spent in unison. They remembered the sneaking out. They remembered stealing their parents’ alcohol. They remembered the late night talks. They reminisced about all of the typical-of-adolescents activities they did in high school. 

Though they wouldn’t dare to openly declare it, it was quite clear that the two were in love. If they had simply dug deep and yanked their repressed emotions to the surface, a deep, passionate, mutual love would have revealed itself. But they never told each other. Even in high school, the feelings were there but they were too afraid of losing each other to take the plunge into a relationship. They struggled throughout high school, dating other people in an attempt to let go of one another. They were desperate to move on. But they couldn’t. Something perpetually drew them together. They were never quite ready to separate. 

Here they were, in what was possibly their final hoora before their worlds parted. Here they had a chance to end their friendship on the highest of notes. They had a chance to leave everything out there just one last time. 

The fire crackled under the star filled sky. They talked about their careers, their pasts, their dreams, and their futures. They talked about short lived crushes and disappointing loves. It seemed as though they had spoken about everything. But, just as they had always done, they left out the fact that they were still, and likely always would be, madly in love with each other. 

They both felt it. They still felt the butterflies whenever they’d reunite. He was never able to fight his nerves around her. She had this funny little quirk where her feet would tingle when with him. Their bodies tried to tell them what their minds refused to say. 

Just as the night began to become day, as the sun rose over the lake, he finally found the courage to speak. 

“I roll over every morning and see the woman who is set to one day be the mother of my children. She is perfect in every conceivable way. She will be the most caring wife and loving mother. But, even having said all of that, I can’t stop myself from wishing I was waking up next to you.” His heart raced as he uttered every word of his proclamation of love. He felt as though the largest weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. The truth had finally made its way to the surface. 

She was thrilled and, frankly, flattered. She took a moment, recognizing just how important her reply was. She opened her mouth to speak, but for some reason the words didn’t come out. She struggled for a few moments, trying to organize her thoughts into cohesive sentences. But she was too taken aback by the long awaited truth. She decided no words could sum up exactly how she felt. 

They stared into each other’s eyes with the fire burning behind them. They felt just as they did when they’d had their first kiss. They felt their worlds slowly moving apart, but they weren’t ready to let go. Their faces slowly inched toward each other. His nose met hers. She closed her eyes. He closed his. When their lips met, they felt as though they were fulfilling their destiny. They felt right. They first kissed with hesitation, but soon after uncovered the intimate passion that had long been buried underneath. 

As they felt their kiss coming to an end, he rubbed her neck. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pinch and a rush of pain. He looked down and saw blood dripping down his index finger. He looked at her neck and saw a necklace. It was a rose with a thorn on it. When he wiped the blood, he noticed it had made its way to a scar on his wrist. 

They spent much of their remaining time together in silence. They were both clearly overwhelmed by what had happened. They were elated knowing that there was a passionate, mutual love between them, but they recognized that there was a reality they were both expected to return to. He to his fiancé and bland life. She to being alone. 

They spoke not of their kiss on the car ride home. Though they didn’t establish it, they both knew that they were sworn to secrecy. They thought they’d shared one final moment of passion, a moment they were never to speak of again. They had done something so minute, but it was something that had the ability to bring his world crashing to the ground. 

They shared a long, emotional goodbye and went their separate ways. They expected a friendship of occasional calls and, perhaps, coincidental run ins. They felt as if the passion they’d surfaced was consuming them. They were scared. They were afraid of losing each other, losing their connection. They weren’t ready to let go. 


Three months passed and his wedding day arrived. His friends and family had come from all over the world to see him enter the next stage of his life. They were elated. He appeared to be. But he knew that there was something more out there for him. He knew she was out there. He had trouble bearing the thought of living in a world without her. But he had made a commitment. He had excited his friends, his family, and everyone in his life. He knew he couldn’t leave. 

The ceremony began. It was a lush ceremony, full of luxurious ornaments and beautiful flowers. The flower girls made their way down the aisle dressed in angelic white dresses. They arrived at him and his best man, handing each a magnificent red rose. It was a family tradition to solidify a life of happiness with the symbolic flower. It represented the beautiful love that was to protect the sanctity of their marriage until death did them part. 

He nervously rubbed up and down the stem of the flower. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pinch and a rush of pain. He looked down and saw blood dripping down his index finger.  The blood slid down his finger and into his palm. He didn’t stop the stream. He stared at it as it made its way down to the scar on his wrist. 

He gazed at the scar with his mouth hanging open.

His mind traveled off far away from the chapel to the day he’d gotten the scar. He was at the lake in Branson with her. They’d just graduated from high school, so, as a means of celebration, they’d decided to rent a canoe. During their exploration of their favorite lake, she’d fallen out into the water. When his seemingly uncontrollable laughter came to an end, he reached down to help pull her back into the canoe. Once she made her way back in safely, he looked down and saw blood rolling down his index finger. He had cut his wrist on a rock in the water, but was too consumed by her adorable laugh to notice the pain. 

He stared down at the blood. The lake began to shake. She started to fade away. He looked down and saw the canoe turn into an alter. He was trembling, beginning to grow terrified. He felt his world crashing down. He felt he was being pulled out of the world in which he belonged. 

He looked over at his best man and saw that he was yanking his shoulder in an effort to regain his attention. He was back in his bland reality. He looked down at the blood on his wrist and knew exactly what he needed to do. 


When the cleaning crew came to clear the chapel, they noticed that it was unusually clean, almost as if it hadn’t been used. The workers began to take down the ornaments and throw out the flowers. One man made his way up the aisle to clear the alter. He began to pick up the flowers when he noticed a red rose among the white pedals. He saw that the stem of the rose had been stained by blood. Beside it was a gold wedding band. 


Nine months later they cruised down Highway 65 with the windows down and the music turned up, just as they had done every year since high school. They weren’t quite ready to let go. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's Out There For Us?

I look on Yahoo and hear that the George Zimmerman trial has resulted in violent rioting in Los Angeles. I watch YouTube videos of thugs ruthlessly attacking each other. I see a government constantly losing control of its people. I see so many things that make me question the very country we have the displeasure of living in. Every country in the world has its own problems, that’s for damn sure. But for America, a country that is supposed to be the greatest in the world, we sure have a hell of a lot of problems. 

Racial tensions, educational stagnancy, politically driven paranoia. Our country is so in debt that we live each day essentially under the control of other countries. What does that make us? Puppets? Is China our puppet master? Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim to know everything about politics and the economy. But there are such blatant issues that nobody, even the least receptive person alive, could miss. 

I was speaking to my brother today and he brought up an interesting point. He said that the Constitution may as well be thrown out because, to us, it’s archaic and essentially useless. He told me that the Patriot Act is all the proof one needs to conclude that the Constitution is not an integral part of the modern American society. Ironic that the Patriot Act is named that. A patriot would defend freedom of speech, he/she would defend the fundamental liberties that the Constitution initially ensured. A patriot wouldn’t snoop around, essentially spying on Americans. 

Isn’t it disgusting that these kind of riots happen? That people have such little fear of the government that they actually try to take law into their own hands? Even beyond that, they hurt other people, innocent people, because everyone is rioting, so why not break into department stores and steal whatever we can grab? And what does our president, someone who is intended to be the most powerful and feared figure in the government, do? He politely asks the rioters to disperse peacefully. Where is the power? Where is the force? Where is the sense of nationalism? 

When something goes wrong, it’s quite rare that neighbors turn to each other with a helping hand. If there is a sense of American nationalism alive today, I certainly haven’t seen it around recently. What’s strange is that, sitting here on a train in Israel, I look around at these people and I know they all gladly served in the army. I know soldiers in my friends’ units were ready to go in during Operation Pillar of Defense. They didn’t hesitate when asked to defend, and possibly die for, their country. They were upset when we didn’t go in. Because they love their homeland, a land we have been bound to for thousands of years. 

America is so diverse, I’ll give it that. But diversity certainly does not mean harmonious intermingling. I hail from East Memphis, Tennessee. My neighborhood is predominately white. How sick is it that people are uneasy when a black family moves into the neighborhood? Memphis is essentially segregated. The blacks go to black schools and the whites go to white schools. And we wonder why there is tension. Whereas here, there are so many reasons to hate each other. And some people do hate each other. But, for the most part, you look in front of you on Ben Yehuda and you see Arabs, Ethiopians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Asians. You see so many different people constantly interacting. You see a culture that is the direct antithesis of apartheid. You see tension, but you also see an unbelievable amount of harmony. 

And damn it, the people here are happy and satisfied in their own skin. Most aren’t caught up in the materialistic world. Most are concerned with being themselves. Orthodox Jews go to Shul in shorts and a tshirt. It’s not about the brand of the shirt on your back and the pants on your ass. It’s about the content of your character. It’s about loving God in your own way. It’s about being yourself. If I walked into my Shul in shorts and a tshirt, people would look at me like I’m a disrespectful jerk. But here, here nobody cares about that so long as they see that you are seriously trying to connect with God in your own way. 

How do you expect to find a connection in Memphis, Tennessee? Or anywhere in America? It’s funny, the second I got here I felt like I was connected to the land. I felt like I came straight from the dirt. I see Israeli flags flying all around me and I could not be happier. Being here has so strengthened my spiritual connection to God, as well as my Zionist connection to the land of my forefathers. 

I’m walking where they walked. I’m looking at the land God promised us, the land we worked so long to attain. I’m looking at Moshe’s dream. I’m looking out at the Hills of Judea and I see a nation that has refused to die. I see a nation that has overcome persecutions, Pogroms, Crusades, and the Holocaust. Throughout history, we’ve been the scapegoat. We’ve been the ones who get slaughtered. But somehow we’ve overcome all of that. We’ve outlasted the great empires of the ancient world. We’ve become one of the most technologically advanced countries in the entire world. We’re still here and we have no intention of going away. We are very much in control of our own fate, no longer tied down by tyrannical rulers. 

We stand together, now and forever, for the Jewish people and God’s land. 

Now, I say all of this with absolutely no idea as to if I will end up here one day. But, the older I get, the more of a likelihood it becomes. I feel that if I don’t end up here one day I will be taking God’s endless protection for granted. And, as America continues to deteriorate, raising my children here becomes more and more logical. 

What kind of country do we have the displeasure of living in? What else is out there for us? Think about it.