I am here, and I am happy.
With God’s help, forty-six years of tumult over what kind of Jew to be is over. “Chayim Sheli,” it says on the balloon.
My life, my choices.
I love that in Tel Aviv, a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (z”l) is plastered everywhere I go.
I love that there are thick, sumptuous chocolate rugelach here.
In Tel Aviv, they still have payphones.
They make jokes.
They sell pink pajamas for grownups to wear on the street.
They have pride in the Mossad, the Jewish version of the CIA.
Edgy street culture.
Love for America.
Love for its culture.
A special love for McDonald’s.
There is so much to love as a thinking, feeling, creative Jew in in Tel Aviv that it makes my soul scream with pleasure.
I feel that God is close.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah, and all of us can keep some of them, even if none of us can keep all.
He reminds me of this constantly.
I am okay just like the other Jews here are okay. Even if our way of exhibiting Jewish identity does not conform to any known category.
Religion is a little like getting a schwarma on the beach. It’s traditional to offer a salad bar.
Meat and bread: the same basic ingredients. And then everybody chooses whatever toppings they like.
Religion is social but it’s also very personal. Nobody has the right to tell us exactly how to be.
But we still haven’t solved it. And no matter how beautiful it is here, sitting by the beach, reflection makes all of us pensive.
The key is to never, ever lose your joy.
And don’t let anybody steal it from you, either.
Israel, and Tel Aviv in particular, celebrates all kinds of Jewish heroes.
Not just rabbis.
Paratroopers, doctors, academics, archaeologists and artists of all kinds.
It gives me so much pleasure to be here.
And I am grateful for the chance to share this joy with you.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Cover photo by Andy Blumenthal. Other photos by the author.