I remember sitting at a Panera with my mom and brother when I was maybe 15 years old. We were getting lunch before a doctor’s appointment, and I knew vaccines were on the schedule. In a panic about the impending injections, I told my mom I was calling Grandma. “What’s she gonna do?” my mom asked. “She’ll come get me,” I said.

Grandma lived in Florida, but that was irrelevant.

I get asked about my relationship to Israel a lot, and usually, in thinking of that moment, I tell people, “Israel is like Grandma’s house.” When you’re young and up against the biggest and scariest thing you could ever possibly have to deal with (yes, I was that afraid of shots), you call Grandma. When you’re a bit older and start facing bigger and scarier things like, well, the brink of adulthood and the meaning of life, you go to Israel.

Rachel LaVictoire

Like Grandma’s house, Israel provides a warm and endearing sense of protection. Though once alarmed, I’m now comforted by the men checking bags at mall entrances and the number of soldiers I see in Jerusalem. Like Grandma’s house, Israel always has someone to listen. I’ve never struggled to find a friend, even a waiter on occasion, to sit with for hours over a cup of coffee or a beer, trying to sort out priorities in life or what the next step should be. Like Grandma’s house, in Israel no one cares how you look or what you’re wearing. Sandals and cargo shorts are acceptable attire for people of all ages and genders. And finally, like Grandma’s house, in Israel challah French toast is the only kind of French toast.

So visit often.

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