I’m 18 years old; I have never known a world without the state of Israel. For me, Israel has always meant knowing that there is one place in this world that is irrevocably mine, where I will always have a stake, full of leaders who ensure that I’ll forever have a place to go.

I can touch the stones that my ancestors touched and pray where the words were written. Israel means that when I learn of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust, I do not have to fear for my own long-term safety. It means that I believe in miracles.

Maayan Schoen

It means that my superheroes wear olive-green or khaki fatigues and are right around my age. It means that I can feel personally proud of technological innovation, of disaster relief and of peace efforts, knowing Israel is at the forefront. It means that I read the news with a critical eye, hypersensitive to the media’s skewed portrayal of Israel, and that I am forced to search further for the truth so that I can make it known.

It means autonomy. It means that my heart is in the East, and that I can hop on a plane to follow it. Now, Israel means that I will take a year between high school and college to study, immersed in my heritage and culture, learning ancient texts and no-longer-ancient language, as I begin to build a life among my people.

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