What Israel Means to Me: Jan Jaben-Eilon

What Israel Means to Me: Jan Jaben-Eilon

Here’s what the AJT contributor and former Israel resident has to say as we celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday.

The moon over Israel, taken by Jan Jaben-Eilon
The moon over Israel, taken by Jan Jaben-Eilon

To roughly paraphrase Yehuda Halevy, I am here in America, but my heart is in Israel.

I recall seeing a full moon over the Old City of Jerusalem the first time I was there. Earlier — much earlier — that day, I had seen that full moon descend from the top of Masada, brightening in a morning sunrise. Another time, I recall seeing a full-moon total eclipse over the Old City wall from the restaurant where my husband took me on our first date.

I often need to remind myself of those special moments, to try to overshadow my deep disappointments in the country. I often quote my Sabra mother-in-law, who says, “This isn’t the country I fought for during the independence war.” It’s also not the country I made aliyah to over two decades ago.

Jan Jaben-Eilon

I loved my life in Israel, as challenging as it was to be an immigrant there. I loved the vitality, the friendships, walking from our apartment to all parts of Jerusalem. In those days, despite the occasional terrorist attack, there was hope, there was a positive passion. I remember exactly where I was, on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as I finally accepted that it was OK to criticize Israel — out of love.

Today my friends and relatives in Israel struggle to stay afloat economically and emotionally, trying desperately to live their lives in self-created bubbles. I miss the country, yet I don’t. It’s easier to protect my broken heart living here in America.

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

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