“Go Forth”… – A Personal Journey
This year will see the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, and I shall complete 23 years of the
accomplishment of my dream of living in Israel. I cannot refrain from asking myself: What brought me to this blessed land?
Upon making a self-search I return to the scriptures, to the Book of Genesis:
1. The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land I will show you.
2. “I will make of you a great nation And I will bless you; I will make your name great, and shall be a blessing.
3. I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”
I cannot recall when was the first time in my life that I heard this passage, but it is clear that from that time on, this verse has been reverberating in my memory and in my heart.
“Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house” . I must admit that I had a huge advantage over Abram, and that is the existence of the State of Israel. I had a country to go to, it was “my land”, it was “my country”, and I felt that it is the land of my ancestors. I grew up when Israel was already in existence, I was not angry at my South American sources, I just knew that there was a mission in life that I had to realize.
If one continues to read the text of Genesis, one sees the fulfillment of Abram’s mission, the reading of which has always moved me: “Abram went forth as the LORD had commanded him.” (4)
Abram arises and goes to a distant, unknown, different land, in order to experience and carry out the Lord’s edict. We, the entire family, decided to listen to the voice of G-d, who called upon us to live in The Promised Land.
For me, Israel was an ideal, it was a goal, a place to where we must arrive. I felt Israel, I experienced it, and at the same time I asked myself what would be my mission there. I received inspiration for the answer to this from the poem of the Argentinean non-Jewish writer and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote this poem following his first visit to Israel in 1967. His poem is still valid today:
I feared that in Israel there might be lurking,
sweetly and insidiously,
the nostalgia gathered like some sad treasure
during the centuries of dispersion
in cities of the unbeliever, in ghettoes,
in the sunset of the steppes, in dreams,
the nostalgia of those who longed for you,
Jerusalem, beside the waters of Babylon.
What else were you, Israel, but that wistfulness,
that will to save
amid the shifting shapes of time
your old magical book, your ceremonies,
your loneliness with God?
Not so. The most ancient of nations
is also the youngest.
You have not tempted men with gardens or gold,
and the emptiness of gold
but with the hard work, beleaguered land.
Without words Israel has told them:
Forget who you are
Forget who you have been
Forget the man you were in those countries
which gave you their mornings and evenings
and to which you must not look back in yearning.
You will forget your father’s tongue
and learn the tongue of Paradise.
You shall be an Israeli, a soldier,
You shall build a country on wasteland,
making it rise out of deserts.
Your brother, whose face you’ve never seen,
will work by your side.
One thing only we promise you:
your place in the battle.
The final stanzas reflect part of my dreams in connection with Israel.
An ancient language which is also modern, the tongue of Paradise – in the words of Borges – and I add: the revitalization of the tongue of the Jewish
Nation by way of the trials of a developing country. We are renewing our language every day, and it is the language that brings each one of us closer together.
In the past we built our country starting from the swamps; today we must continue with building schools, hospitals, universities and more townships.
True, in Israel there are working together brothers from over a hundred exiles, all of whom came here to meet up together. I did not know their faces but today they are an indivisible part of me.
Forty years ago, or perhaps millennia ago, we were promised “Your place in the battle”, and that is the objective. We must take a place in the battle for the future, for life, for the development of the State of Israel. This is a place in a battle that does not necessarily connect to wars. I think of my place for the continued existence of the People of Israel.
Today, I invite you, my brother. You, who perhaps talk in a different language, my brother whose face I have never seen. I call upon you to join us to continue to build The State of Israel. Together, hand in hand, heart to heart.
“Go Forth”, come and share the future with us. The journey starts the moment you decide!
Rabbi Mauricio Balter
Executive Director Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami