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Rabbi Yael Ridberg Headshot

Will You Still Love Me When I'm 64?

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In my house growing up, my parents had a huge clock that still hangs in their sunroom that says, "It's time to go to Israel." As I plan a first trip to Israel with my two oldest children, I know the meaning of the clock's message. It is time because I need to reconnect with my feelings for Israel, with friends who live there, and with places I have not been for many years. It is time because without exposure to this complex and complicated place at such an impressionable age, my childrens' hearts may not open toward it in the ways my parents afforded my heart to open to love the land and the people of Israel.

On Israel's 64th birthday, I've been thinking about how to share that love of Israel with my daughters, even while I know the Israel they will come to know may seem different than when I first went 40 years ago.

My love for Israel is not the kind of romantic love that is over almost before it begins. My love is the kind of love that is tested, sometimes deeply challenged, but still survives despite and in spite of much that there is to critique. It is not love that demands perfection -- far from it -- it is the kind of love that asks for serenity to accept certain things I cannot change, courage to work for the kind of change I can be a part of, and yes, it is the kind of love that even might not always know the difference between the two.

The last few weeks have not been too different in the ways Israel has been talked about in the press. Peter Beinart's new book "The Crisis of Zionism" has been hailed as refreshingly honest, decried as having been written by self-hating Jew, and countless hours, tweets, emails, articles and conversation argue about what he identifies as the problem at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have not read the book yet, but in Jewish tradition, to grapple with something, discuss it and argue over it, is to sanctify it and show its depth of importance. Surely American Jews and our relationship with Israel is one of those things.

Leon Wieseltier wrote a poignant piece in the New Republic about the challenge of criticizing Israel in light of the recent incident of Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner striking Danish protester Andreas Ias in the face with the butt of his M-16, the letter from Prime Minister Netanyahu to protesters coming to Israel, and other moments in Israel's recent history that may not be the finest. He offers the perspective that in this complex world Israel must be defended and criticized. I don't see that as a contradiction, for when you love someone, expecting perfection is futile wish.

A video produced by Heartbeat, an international community of musicians, educators and students using music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict, has been making its way around Facebook. The song "Bukhra Fi Mishmish" means "When Pigs Fly," and it features Israeli and Palestinian youth singing about their imagined world where anything is possible -- even pigs flying. Why should peace be any less possible in such a world? It is a world they want to help create and world in which they want to live.

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut -- Israel's Independence Day. I will sit with my children, I will make more plans for our trip, and I will share with them the often sweet and sometimes bitter nature of my love for Israel. Ecclesiastes had it right: There is a time for everything. A time to visit, a time to stay home; a time to critique and a time to defend, a time to despair and a time to hope; a time to love -- I swear its not too late.