When I was in 10th grade, I read “Exodus” by Leon Uris and had to visit Eretz Yisrael. After college graduation, I spent the summer and felt as if I had found my people. Being in a country where we were not a minority, not an oddity, but where everyone from bus drivers to shopkeepers to CEOs and presidents was just like me was a feeling unlike any other.

A yearlong volunteer program and a wedding later, and I was hooked. I lived in Jerusalem, sent my sons to a mamlachti-dati (governmental religious) yet progressive school. I loved the way religious and secular alike live the Jewish calendar. Mini-neighborhoods below buildings sprout up during Sukkot. People dance in the streets during Simchat Torah. Bicycles fill the roads on Yom Kippur. Kids wear Purim costumes. Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah sirens stop people in their tracks. Moments of silence, like school and public ceremonies, are taken to heart.

Wendy Kalman

Today, we connect — to foods, music, culture. I belong to Hadassah, blog for the AJT/Times of Israel and am active with a Jewish-Muslim women’s group. Proud of Israel’s heart and brain, I also devote time and thought to its moral and geographical future; this requires nuanced thinking I wish I saw more often.

As well, within the context of today’s global anti-Semitism, I wonder if we need to reframe how we think about life in the Diaspora. Are we, as we were in Egypt, just sojourning?

All this is to say that Israel means identity and a home to me.

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