None of the things I’ve seen or places I’ve visited on this last trip to Israel were new to me. Between the six times I’ve been here, there are few places in this country where I have not tread, and yet as I stood on a rooftop in Tsfat looking over the valley beneath I was overcome with the awe of Our Survival.
Minutes earlier I walked through an ancient synagogue which bore a hole in one of its walls from the shrapnel of a bomb. At the time of the explosion, 1967, the synagogue was full of worshippers, but none were injured from this burning piece of metal as they were simultaneously bowed as it whizzed over their backs and into the wall. It was but one piece of shrapnel and it is possible none would have died had it hit them, but at that moment that hole represented 4000 years of my people’s struggle, and there was little I could do about myself.
Instead of passing, the emotion further flooded my already leaking ducts when I came to the rooftop overlooking the valley. I saw the place where the source of every living civilization has trodden. From the far reaches of Europe and Asia and the Americas to the very cradle of humanity in Africa – all peoples at some point traversed the valley I now beheld. The great human migration came over this tiny, tiny land, a land to which we have desperately clung for countless millennia, but which has always eluded us as we were flung, time and again, into the far reaches of the globe.
With the valley below me blurred, my mind took me back 10 years when I first stood at the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem). There have been very few dull periods in my life, in fact, looking back, there is a certain maniacal ribbon along which I have soared and which has brought me countless incredible experiences. But this moment, 10 years ago, in the holiest place for Jews around the world, stands out more clearly than almost anything else in my life.