Happy 59th Birthday, Israel!

Fifty-nine years ago today (5 Iyar), the modern country of Israel was established and the Jewish people finally had a homeland again.

Yes, it’s not perfect; yes, there’s been growing pains; yes, there’s been mistakes made; and yes, it’s not where it really should be to truly be the home on Earth of the Jewish people and G-d, but it is our home, and we love it, wherever we are in the world.

As a convert, the feeling I have for Eretz Ysrael cannot be explained logically. I’ve never been to the country, rarely gave it any thought before my conversion, or knew anyone from there with whom I had an emotional tie. Since the conversion, however, the love of Israel has grown, a phenomenon I have seen in other converts as well. We read about Israel, learn the stories of our glory days in the land that Hashem gave to us, get excited when we remember Joshua’s conquest of the land or King David’s establishment of Jerusalem as the home of the Holy Temple. These things, all breed a love for Israel within me.

There’s also the sad times, the attacks, the bombings, the wars; these all make me feel connected to the people halfway across the world, people I have never met, people with whom I share nothing except the link that unites us all as Jews. My love for Israel was learned, yes, but it is nevertheless real, much like one learns to love a spouse or a friend.

I have a home country that I love very much in Puerto Rico, but that is the homeland of my guf, of my body; Israel is the homeland of my neshama, of my soul, and I cannot wait to visit it, to lay my eyes upon the land that saw my spiritual ancestors walk across it, the land that saw G-d’s miracles on a daily basis and which now awaits that time again, the land where my spirit belongs. It is my home I’ve never been to.

May Hashem continue to bless Israel with peace and prosperity, and may we merit the arrival of Mashiach soon so that we can all move to Israel and restablish G-d’s home on Earth.