Following my senior year in high school, I decided to study at Yeshivat Har Etzion, and throughout the year, I made many efforts to traverse the country, to discover the history and culture of the world’s newest and most original democracy.
It was during those travels that I came to several personal epiphanies that increased my interest and appreciation for the Holy Land.
While climbing the famous Masada mountain, the mythologized stronghold of the Jewish fighters against the Roman occupation, I took a moment to stare out into the sand-filled abyss.
During this moment of self-contemplation, one predominant thought ran through my mind.
I was standing on the very same earth that my ancestors did years ago.
This very idea remained with me for weeks to come, and I repeatedly attempted to analyze it.
What was this profound feeling of being part of history; it surely wasn’t something that I could articulate in words alone.
America, in all its greatness and splendor, stands unique in the world in that it is truly a melting pot of different cultures – and thus lacks a homogeneous one of its own.
This aspect of American society does not find its counterpart among the other nations of the world.
That said, Israel proves to be an exception. The Jewish people, with all their diversity and utter inability to agree on the most agreeable and basic of decisions have learned to live peacefully together.
For it is in this air of overwhelming diversity that a unique, special brand of modern culture has been forged.
This new culture, filled with millennia of history and tradition, has found its place in the 21st century, without losing its feeling of originality and, ultimately, its relevance.
Returning to the feeling that I experienced on Masada, I will conclude with the following thought: No other nation in the history of the world, ancient or modern, has equaled the resolve and determination of the Jewish people, to preserve their history and tradition in the face of intolerance and oppression.
That said, religion alone does not define the Jewish people – especially because most Jews are secular.
No, it is the tenacity of the Jewish nation in preserving its own history, which I became aware of during my time in Israel.