Where do you go when nobody wants you? For hundreds of thousands of displaced Jews some six decades ago, the answer was a tiny sliver of land nobody else wanted, surrounded by hostile neighbors on three sides and the sea on the fourth.
Comprised primarily of desert and mosquito-ridden swampland, devoid of infrastructure, financial stability, and any real development that wasn’t completed 2,000 years before, you go to this area and are told to survive.
So you do. You survive and you thrive.
The swamp is drained and becomes a beautiful valley, green with orchards and vineyards. You develop innovations and technological advances the likes of which the world has never seen (case in point: drip irrigation).
The desert remains a desert, but it’s your desert, because you’re a Jew. And you protect her, this desert, because you don’t know the next time someone will try to take what your ancestors fought so hard to create.
What the chalutzim* fought the hardest to create is not a beautiful valley or drip irrigation. What they fought to create is a place where all Jewish men, women and children are accepted, welcomed, and encouraged to live lives of freedom. Nowhere else in the world can a Jew show up and be accepted as a citizen because of their faith.
To me, this is the true beautiful story of Israel.
Eli Karon was born and raised in Santa Cruz, CA where an early love for fishing and Israel–in no particular order–was instilled in him by his mom, dad, and older brother Adam. He first traveled to Israel to become a Bar Mitzvah and has returned several times since. On each visit, the Holy Land feels more and more a part of his soul. Eli lives and works in Los Angeles and is a member of Sinai Temple.
*chalutzim: Hebrew word for pioneer, often used when speaking of the late 1800s-early 1900s Jews who settled in Palestine and worked to transform the landscape.