I came to you, Israel, wanting to hate you.
To be confirmed in my reasonable European certainty of your arrogant oppression, lounging along the mediterranean coast, facing West in your vast carelessness and American wealth.
I wanted to appreciate your history, but tut over the arrogant folly of your present.
I wanted to cross my arms smugly, and shake my head over you, and then leave you to fight your unjust wars.
I wanted to take from you.
To steal away some spiritual satisfaction, and sigh and pray, and shake my head over your spiritual folly as well.
To see the sad spectacle of the Western wall, and bitterly laugh at your backward-looking notion that God sits high on Moriah Mount, distant and approachable.
I wanted to smirk in my Protestant confidence, knowing that God is with me, even if you refuse to turn to him, standing instead staring blankly at a wall of cold stone, pushing scribbled slips of paper into the Holy mountain, not daring to raise your face, and ask with words.
I wanted to see your sights, to bask in your sun, to tramp my feet over your soil, to swim in your seas, to eat the fruit of your fields.
I wanted to be amazed, to be interested, to be engaged. I wanted.
I didn’t realize you were broken as well as wealthy, fragile as well as strong.
I didn’t realize that you suffer from a thousand voices clamouring in your head, and that some of those voices care about justice and democracy, and that some of them love their neighbors.
I didn’t realize that a thousand enemies press on your borders, hoarding instruments of death, as chaos and darkness and madness consume the world every way you look.
I didn’t realise that you care about your past - that some of those voices of yours treasure the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob every bit as much as I do. I didn’t realize.
Nobody told me.
Or maybe they did, and I refused to listen.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with you.
Your beauty caught me like a hook.
Seeing you, I see what Solomon saw when he wrote about his Beloved.
I see that homeland that Jesus loved.
The lush green of your Galilee, the stark strength of your desert, the bare whiteness of your Judean hills.
I love the Hebrew you speak, the churches you wear like flowers in your hair, the proud golden dome that crowns your head.
I love the strength of your soldiers, the warmth of your sun, the joy of your songs, the peace of your kibbutzim.
This cold Boston air is a mockery of your spring warmth, and in this vast sprawl of concrete and red brick it’s no exaggeration to say that I yearn for your troubled horizons, your ancient hills.
I’m not ashamed to say it. I love you.
I’m sorry I had to leave you.
I know I have no right to love you.
What’s ten days compared to a year, a childhood, a lifetime?
Or the five-thousand year lifetime of a people?
I know that you won’t remember me, that you probably barely even registered my short time with you.
I’m sure my love means nothing to you amid the whispers of a million other lovers, and you’re so very far away.
But I will come back to you.
I’ll leave these busy, harried, Western shores, and come to you, to the East.
I’ll learn your Hebrew, I’ll share your troubles, I’ll breath your air, I’ll walk in your fields again.
I will. I will.
Until then, Israel, mon amour, my love. Until then, shalom.