It’s two o’clock in the morning as the ‘Fasten Seat-Belts’ sign comes on in the plane bringing us back to Tel Aviv. We anxiously scan the darkness outside for the first signs of the city that never sleeps.
And suddenly, there it is. The strings of lights that tell us that Tel Aviv and its surroundings are alive and kicking. The lights are everywhere, shining like strings of jewels, guiding us to our destination.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not one of my favourite people, said recently that until the Jews came back to live in this part of the world once more, about one hundred years ago, the region was desolate. I don’t know how much truth there is in that statement but there can be no doubt that the thriving, bustling, energized city of Tel-Aviv did not exist, and the millions of Jews who have made Israel their home have brought progress, modernity and vitality to what was formerly a neglected backwater of the Turkish Empire. And before that, too, for thousands of years, Jews lived here, although not in sufficient quantities to create a viable political entity of their own.
So that every time I return to my country, Israel, I experience a certain uplifting feeling, knowing that, unlike previous generations of Jews, my generation is privileged to have a country that is our own, with all the attendant difficulties as well as all the achievements – and there are plenty of both. And that is something to treasure.
After having been away from home for over a month, I seem to have forgotten how to cope with the vagaries of the local climate. How could I have forgotten that in Jerusalem, which sits at 400 feet above sea level, the mornings are cool, no matter how hot the forecast day-time temperature? I have just come back from a European country, France, that is engaged in the descent into winter, where the day starts off cold and remains cold throughout. I also spent a few days in Valletta, Malta, which starts off hot and remains thus throughout the day and night. There can be no doubt that when it comes to climate, Jerusalem is unique.
Of course, being reunited with friends and family is the high point of coming home, and it is almost worthwhile going away in order to appreciate the happy reunion with our loved ones. I no longer seem to be bothered by the lack of sleep that made our first day one that extended over forty-eight hours, and the necessity of implementing the myriad of mundane tasks that awaited us – unpacking, attending to laundry, going shopping, and doing cooking – so that sleep was simply not an option.
But who cares about such trivialities. Hallelujah, we’re home!