Though I am thousands of miles away here in Atlanta, Israel is with me with every beat of my heart. It has been that way ever since I first looked out the window of the El Al jet and saw Israel’s coastline for the first time 42 years ago.

After we landed, as we were walking on the tarmac toward the Ben-Gurion terminal, one of the passengers in front of us was a young, blind Israeli with one arm, accompanied by his guide dog. Approaching him was a beautiful, young El Al employee saying in Hebrew, “Ani Leah” (“I am Leah”) “may I help you?”

Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman

I will never forget that moment because I believe her reaching out to this young man represents the bond we all should have with our brothers and sisters in Israel. Not that Israel is perfect, for as so many of us know, she still has a long way to go to fulfill the prophetic vision. But given the context of her existence, like Leah, we need to keep our hands and hearts extended to her as we walk with the people of Israel on their journey to fulfill the prophetic dream.

No one has ever articulated this kinship with Israel more clearly than Mrs. Janice Rothschild Blumberg. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Janice would periodically go over to the TV station behind our Temple to get an update on the attack.

Eventually, one of the reporters, sensing her deep concern, asked Janice, “Do you have family in Israel?” “Yes,” she replied. “Everybody.”

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