Divine understanding and reverence of the Torah begin in Israel, the place where we are able to relive, relate to and physically connect to our fantastical tradition. The Torah seems to mirror the fairy tales we love so much as children — filled with giants and spies and many supernatural events. Unlike a fairy tale, however, the Torah does not take place in a fictional land; the Torah takes place in Israel and the surrounding area.

Aliza Yona Abusch-Magder

Being in Israel, the setting of our beloved story, makes the Torah feel more real and therefore more powerful. In the Dead Sea Valley Rift stands a salt pillar, identified as the solidified body of Lot’s wife, who against G-d’s instructions looked back at the burning city of Sodom. Though it still seems like an obscure story, its moral lessons are easier to grasp as you stand in the shadow of her choice to disobey G-d.

Spirituality is often described as a semitranscendent experience, one which solely resides in some higher realm of being, but I understand spirituality to be tangible, grounded in location. My spiritual connection to the Jewish tradition is strengthened as I stand on Jerusalem stone in the Old City, where Yitzchak was nearly sacrificed by his father, or overlook the port of Jaffa, the same sea where Jonah fled G-d, only to be swallowed by a whale.

See all the reflections on Israel’s meaning on this special anniversary.