Rediscovering the beauty of the land
By Zalman Eisenstock
During the last two decades we have seen one Jew pitted against another: right against left, Land of Israel faithful against Peace activists, religious vs. secular. And during the same period of time we have suffered enormous losses due to terrorism and wars. Many have called into question how crucial our hold on the land really is, and how much we should sacrifice for the sake of peace and the future. It is at times like these that we owe it to ourselves to look back at what the land really means, and to try to recapture its beauty.
Over 80 years ago the poetess Rachel composed the following humble lines:
"I haven't sung your praise
Nor glorified your name
In tales of valor and in wars.
Only a tree I plant on Jordan's bank;
Only a path my feet have
Tracked across the fields."
Rachel leaves the honor and glory to other, braver individuals, but her bravery is of a different nature. Rachel and others are putting down roots in the soil, roots that they may not even see in their lifetime. They are doing the planting for the sake of future generations. And her feet walk across fields in order to feel the land much like our forefather Abraham who was told to walk the length and breadth of the land. Rachel's hands and feet are not the kind that conquer or trample, but rather that build and create.
In contrast to the humble spirit of Rachel there was an extremely courageous and dedicated soldier who served his country for 11 tumultuous years from 1965-1976. During that time he participated in several wars, many skirmishes and tragically died in Uganda commanding the famous rescue at Entebbe. One might have thought that when Yoni Netanyahu first began writing to his family that he would recount only army stories and training. But in 1965 Yoni speaks about his travels in the land of Israel that he found to be utterly beautiful:
"Then I decided I had to know the country, and by "know" I mean to be familiar with every tree and rock in it. I have seen and felt the beauty of the Judean desert, the might of straight, steep cliffs, the strength and power of Massada and the life of our ancient ancestors in the oases of the desert. All of these have taken on a profound meaning for me.
All of this, together with the special sense of life I have acquired in the army has now become enmeshed in my being, creating the full circle of a life that is whole."
Yoni was only 19 when he wrote this letter to his parents and brothers, but he sounds like he is mature beyond his years. He describes his life as whole, a life that would be dedicated to his people and to the preservation of the land. The mountains and the deserts take on a life of their own conjuring up images of the past, but they will also be the battles scenes of Israel's future.
Over 3,000 years ago King David also had a vision of the future in which his descendents return to the land after a long period of exile:
"And one day You will arise,
And have compassion on Zionů
When Your servants will take pleasure
In her stones and give all their favor to her dust." (Tehillim 102)
" The significance of the soil," writes Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the 19th century, "is that it is the same soil that supported their past, and still holds their future."
That poignant message of building and creating from the soil has somehow been forgotten, but its message is timeless. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to keep on nurturing the land, and teaching them about its beauty. Perhaps by doing so we will demonstrate a strong connection to our roots, and the hope for a stronger future.
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The author welcomes your comments: email@example.com
from the March 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine