I traveled to Israel for the first time almost 40 years ago, never imaging that participating on this trip would significantly affect the rest of my life. As a young teenager, I was so eager to travel with other young teens — to see the sights, taste the food and experience the culture. As I reflect on that initial summer in Israel, I appreciate how that seemingly innocent teen tour set me on a true Jewish journey that continues to illuminate my life and enrich my Jewish experiences. I became more attached to my Jewish roots, cultures and traditions. I felt at home among family.

Beth Paradies

Family has always been of utmost importance for me, that for which I am most grateful. Being grateful for the state of Israel, on its 70th birthday and every day, is at the core of my being because to me it is analogous to being grateful for my family.

Our Jewish homeland is far more than a physical place on the map. Israel represents the heart and soul of our Jewish faith and strengthens our entire Jewish community throughout the world. I will always treat Israel like a family member, supporting our holy land in every way I can. For Israel represents our faith’s past, present and future.

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