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    A land reborn – Lech L’cha

    map_israelGreat promises made to Abraham figure prominently in the sidra.

    There is a promise that his descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16) or the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5). There is also a promise, “For all the land which you see, to you will I give it and to your descendants forever” (Gen. 13:15).

    It is a small land. Not quite as small as the tiny European nations that are the size of a handkerchief.

    But though it can fit a few times over into Wales or Tasmania, it is a land of immense contrast – snow in the north, desert in the south.

    It is a land of amazing beauty; what the sages say about Jerusalem could be extended to the land as a whole, “Ten measures of beauty descended upon earth; nine were taken by Jerusalem” (Kiddushin 49b).

    It is a productive land, though without the effort and ingenuity of the pioneers few would have thought the desert would bloom and the land become green.

    But what really matters about Israel is not simply its physical features but the way it fulfils you as a Jew.

    There is an ambiguity about Jewish identity in the Diaspora. If a person wants to live and learn as a Jew in Israel, on the other hand, it is as natural as breathing the air.

    True, there are problems in Israel – tensions between Jewish ideologies, suspicion between the secular and the religious, a generally threadbare presentation of Judaism in the general school system – but there are also genuine, sincere people who are working to narrow the gaps and find solutions to the problems.

    There are also amazing personalities who are unafraid to think unconventionally about issues of faith, ethics and identity. And there are respected institutions that yield to no-one in their loyalty to halachah whilst also addressing the role and status of women.

    A truly exciting moment to live in a truly inspiring Jewish homeland. And a good time to visit.

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