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Dear Israel

By Paula Stern
8/18/2014, 8:08 AM

It's been 21 years to the day since I landed at Ben Gurion airport with two small boys, 9 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, a carriage and a car seat. I was met at the airport by a smiling husband who had landed more than 2 months before, and a 7 year old daughter who had come a month earlier.

The minute the wheels of the plane touched the ground, I knew a peace that has rarely been missing in all the years since that day when we walked down the staircase to home. It's silly when the truth sounds so cliche-ish, but it's true. In all those years, I have never once wished myself anywhere else, and the few times I have left for brief visits - all of which I can count on one hand - I have spent much of the time wishing I was here.

I have loved you since I was 13-years-old. At first, it was the love of right, of justice, of dreams becoming reality. It was the distant love of a young girl looking for logic and reason, more, for an explanation. If all we ever did was walk like sheep and cower before the Cossacks, what was there to be proud of? That's all I wanted to understand - and it all became crystal clear as I began to understand you.

You are the reality we waited for, worked towards, for 2,000 years. You enabled a broken people to walk out of the gas chambers, concentration camps and Displaced Persons camps in which they dumped us after the war. We came here to a land that needed us as much as we needed you. You offered us the promise that no one would ever do again what was done over the centuries of exile. We were home to be protected and to protect.

You are more than a piece of land, more than the fulfillment of a promise. You are our opportunity to excel, to be so much of what we as a people want to be. Perhaps, ultimately, that is why they hate us so much. We heal ourselves and we heal the children of our enemies; we even heal our enemies - not because the world threatens us but because that is a part of our nature. When we must fight, we fight with honor and morality and if the world is too stupid or hate-filled to notice it; that doesn't change what we do because ultimately, we answer to ourselves and to God, not Obama and the United Nations.

Today, I want to think not of them, but of us. What we have accomplished in these 21 years - you and me. You have created more innovation, more life-saving devices than I can list. Everyday elements of the lives of the majority of the world are touched by what has been created here in this tiny land.

Even as our enemies curse us and boycott us, it's all a lie - because they don't boycott the vast majority of the technology that comes from Israel. They are all here, those hi-tech companies, because they recognize our dedication, our intelligence, our yearning to solve any challenge sent out way.

That is the light that overshadows the darkness. We are not naive enough to refuse to see the hate sent our way; we simply refuse to let it cripple us or stop us. 

In the time I have been here, they have set fire innumerable times to your fields and valleys and forests. They know that in hurting the land, they hurt us. And what they fail to understand each and every time, is that you can't claim the land as yours, while attacking it year after year. 

They watch us plant in the desert and laugh because who can bring life to death? And then they and their culture of death watch in astounded silence as the desert blooms, as forests grow where once there was barren land and swamps are drained to the fertile land underneath. As a people, once isolated and alone, thrives and grows as strong and proud as the very land on which we live.

They have fired rockets and missiles, exploded bombs and bodies, thrown firebombs and boulders and stones. They have stabbed us, shot us and broken our hearts more times than I can list over the 21 years I have been here, and the 45 before that. And what infuriates them most is that while they can break our hearts easily, they have never, not once, broken our spirit or our determination.

You and we together have brought home tens of thousands - from Ethiopia and Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and beyond. They have returned to you from the Soviet Union and now from France, England, Belgium, the Ukraine and the United States. We have built mega-cities and almost daily I watch this large building in Herziliya grow floor by floor, stopping for nothing, not even war.

Roads, super-highways and more have been built and are being built - everywhere, we are building because that is what people do in their land. They settle it, they develop it, they love it.

And in these 21 years, I too have grown, though perhaps less dramatically. Two children we have added to the three we brought here. Born in Israel, they are so beautiful, so tall, so strong. They converse in Hebrew, think and dream in Hebrew and because I came when they were young enough, the three older ones do as well. Two have served in your army; one gave her time to national service. Another is about to step forward to serve and deep in my heart, I know I'll survive this one going in, even if right now it doesn't seem possible to go through this all again.

There are ignorant ones, even with many degrees and even from our own people, who say that my life is in limbo, unfinished and unable to move forward because I have chosen to live 5 miles to the east of Jerusalem instead of to the west. How silly they are, how unaware of the truth!

Limbo? I have five of the most special people in the world that I call my own. Three have married to give me eight of the most amazing gifts a human being could have. Two have brought me little angels that show me the future is going to be an amazing place.

Dear Israel - you have given me so much in these years - life, love, happiness, a home - above all, a promise. You are eternal in a way that no other land is, has been, or will be.

Let them have their commissions, their inquiries. Let them ignore the amazing gifts you have brought and continue to bring to the world. Let them ignore that we are a people of life, of peace. All this is a moment in an eternity, a second in a lifetime and beyond.

Each year, I sit under the fireworks of Independence Day and whisper so no one will hear because they may think it silly that I speak to a land, a physical thing but not a person. So, on that day, each year, I wish you a happy birthday because I celebrate the day you were reborn. I watch the colors in the sky and know that we have turned a dream into reality, a hope into a promise. This is a national gift, something we all share and so I join in a national moment of celebration.

And on this day, each year, it is my chance to thank you for all that you are to the People of Israel, but more, all that you are to me. Above all you have given me, the most precious gift, is the gift of home.