How Do You Know You Love Israel? : Mikayla Carno-Harf Speaks at Shabbat Service led by Fairmount Temple youth group

This post to “If Not Now, When?” the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, is formed from the remarks shared by Mikayla Carno-Harf, our Fairmount Temple Senior Youth Group (CLEFTY) Religious and Cultural Vice-President, during Shabbat Atid (“the future”) co-led by clergy and religious school students in our synagogue, on Friday, January 23, 2015. We encourage you to post, share, and respond to the post below, if you wish, in an effort to engender a discussion virtually in our community.

When I went to Canada almost a year ago I was wearing an “I ♥︎ (heart) Israel” T-shirt. When we were crossing the border I walked up to the border patrol officer and he saw my shirt and he asked “have you ever been to Israel?” I said no and he said “Then how do you know you love Israel?” and I said “I just do.”

This question really stuck with me throughout this past year. I was questioning “How do I know I love Israel if I’ve never been there?” I really thought about it. Through all my education about Israel I have come to love this place. Maybe not its political conflict but that is not the most important part about Israel.

As some of you may know I went to Israel for the first time over winter break. That trip confirmed everything I ever believed about Israel and contradicted some other things, but mostly I realize how much you can feel deeply about someplace without even being there. What I have learned is that Israel is more than just a small country surrounded by nations with guns pointing their way. It is a place for not only Jews or Christians or Muslims or Armenians. It is a place for everyone.

Back in the Roman times people believed that the world was the center of the Universe. That Israel was the center of the discovered world. Jerusalem was the center of Israel at the time and in the center of Jerusalem was the Temple Mount. Which means that they believed that the Temple Mount was the center of the Universe. Which sounds crazy when you first think about it. In reality it is definitely not the center of our universe. But it is right in the middle of Europe, Asia and Africa, which was the whole world at the point in time. I believe now that this is less of physical center and more of a religious and emotional center. The religions that take claim to Jerusalem as a holy place are 3 of the most prominent religions of our time, even though we may not be the largest modern religion we are definitely a prominent one.

I have been surrounded by Jews my entire life, but it felt like a different kind of surrounded feeling when I went to Israel. I realized that in America being Jewish was what kept you intertwined with your communities but in Israel because most of your communities were Jewish the things that connected you to your peers were much, much stronger. This is a feeling you can never get anywhere else which makes being Jewish in Israel even more special than it already is. The way I feel about Israel is not just my connection through my Jewish genes or my family ties. Its is about the feeling I got when I remembered seeing Jerusalem and the Kotel for the first time. I know now without a shadow of a doubt that I love Israel and I will for the rest of my life.

The lyrics to a song I used to sing at camp really spoke to me in the Holy Land and they were.

אני לי ארץ אכרת

These words mean “I have no other country”

Which is the best way I can describe Israel to you today.

I would like to thank my parents for all the things Jewish they have inspired me to do and because there are some many I will not mention them all. But mostly thank you for taking me to Israel. I not only got to see Israel through your eyes, but I got to see Israel through my own eyes which is an experience I will never forget.