The beautiful blue and white Israeli flag flying tall outside my Jewish day school in Perth, Australia, is vivid in my memory of my first day of school. I can’t explain why, but I remember feeling proud.
That day would mark the beginning of 12 years of singing Hatikva, hearing stories about the early pioneers, and building a connection with the Land and State of Israel.
On my last day of school, while giving the annual valedictory address to the graduating class of 2003, I remember seeing that same blue and white flag through the corner of my eye. In a moment of emotional deja vu, I felt the same deeply ingrained pride as I had on my first day of school. However, this time it was different. This time I had a plane ticket to the Land of Israel.
I arrived in Israel alone and made my way to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was my first time ever in Israel and I was standing by the wall, and there was only one logical thing to do: I cried.
It has been nine years since that first day in Israel and I have spent my time combining rabbinic studies in the Beit El Yeshiva with combat service in the field intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces. I was blessed to meet my second half and life partner, Michal, and in a search for quality neighbors and a good place to raise children, we moved into the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El.
Our home in Beit El meant more than just the stability and independence we so craved. It was a dream come true. We had made the giant leap from the never-ending beaches of Australia to the land of our forefathers — the place Jacob named "The house of G-d" and "The gate to Heaven." Here our two children, Chana and Yonatan, were born, further connecting us with our 4000-year-old heritage.
But one day, a knock at the door was to turn this dream into a nightmare. Our home, the realization of our Zionist dream, was to be destroyed. After eight years of silence, we were told that the Arab who had sold us the land was possibly not the real owner. Instead of waiting for a verdict from the district court regarding the ownership of the land, the government opted to demolish. We were sure there had been a mistake. After all, If anybody is able to understand the value of a home, it should be Israel.
But there was no mistake. The government ordered demolition of thirty Jewish homes before the land dispute was clarified!
And now, Michal and I find ourselves staring at the Israeli flag hung proudly in our lounge room with question. How could the Israeli government — which represents the Zionist values we were brought up with and encouraged to live by — be behind such a tragedy? The Jewish people have been expelled by their enemies from almost every country they have ever resided in, and now the Jewish state is expelling its own people from their homes?! How can this be real?
With three weeks to go before we are transferred into a forty-square-meter cardboard box in a yet-to-be-determined location, we turn to the prime minister, the backbone of the Zionist establishment, and ask: Where did we go wrong in our Zionism? If Zionism is not about Jews living securely in their homes in Israel, then what is it!?
With all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, if for you the Land of Israel is a game of cut-and-paste and not the eternal life force of the Jewish people, then maybe you have got Zionism wrong.
The writer is a resident of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El.