“Mom!” my son calls. He sees me coming over the hill. It’s clear he has been standing there since the last day of camp began, waiting to see me. It’s been a month: he’s taller. He hugs me, tightly, and I feel his love in my ribcage. I feel my own love for him beating in my chest.
We drive home in our comfortable, air-conditioned car. My son is exhausted, but talking a mile a minute in a voice made hoarse by weeks of nonstop chatter. He sprinkles Hebrew in his conversation. He sings songs, leans forward to share new details he hasn’t told us about yet. His face and his happiness glow.
My son has come home from Jewish camp with new pride and joy in being Jewish. Some would say it’s an epic case of bad timing.
After all, he’s coming home to a world where people yell “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was Right!” with impunity in the streets of Paris and Berlin, Boston and Los Angeles. He comes home to a world bleeding with hatred. It is a world where it is suddenly utterly palatable to be anti-Semitic–a world where the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish state is questioned from all sides. It is a world on fire with anger.
I live in America, far from sirens rousing me from my sleep commanding me to run for my life. And yet I cannot sleep thinking of Israel, of Jews, of those who hate either or both.
And now my son comes home from Jewish camp, and he is a proud and more knowledgeable Jew.
He shows me he can sing the Birkat Hamazon (blessing after a meal) by heart. He sprinkles those Hebrew words into his conversation, not to show off, but because that is how he has been living for the past month. He wants to know more about what is going on in Israel now, about the history of the Jewish people. He’s no longer interested because I want him to be–he’s interested because, independently at camp, he’s become invested and aware: this is who he is.
My son has something precious in him–a seed, planted by his parents, nurtured by his camp–his Jewish identity. And now, he knows more of what it is, and how much it is worth. It is priceless.
I am so sad to see the funerals of boys, soldiers in the IDF not much older than my son, who died for what they believe in. They are treasures buried in the earth.
But I look at my son and I know that the Jewish people, and Israel, will live.