Memories by Josh Samuel, on Rosh Hashanah 2017
My family moved to Israel when I was eleven. Israel is built on shared memory.
The memory of the Holocaust permeated my coming of age in Israel, building a wall of justification.
Memorial ceremonies in white shirts on Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers, the day before Independence Day, with wisps of flute music snatched by the wind and solemn poems about the youth being a silver platter on which the country was served.
But there was an earnest sense of belonging, a feeling that our path was right. I remember standing with friends in a clutch of bicycles, shortly after the Yom Kippur war, discussing seriously what we would do if we were invaded and how we would resist.
Years later, at my farewell party in Albuquerque NM, heading back to Israel after my two-year postdoc, we heard that Yitzchak Rabin had been shot and killed. We returned to Israel, but that sense of belonging had evaporated.
There is a hole where that feeling of belonging was, like a missing filling, huge when probed with the tongue, but seemingly imperceptible when viewed from the outside.
I no longer celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s independence day, nor do I celebrate the 4th of July.
There is a sense of loss when a place leaves you, or maybe it was never actually there from the beginning.
I fight against the cynicism and anger that the loss of belonging to a country can invoke.
I strive to find belonging in a community for myself and my family.
Because that is all there is.
and it is enough.
[Editor’s note: Each year we extend the learning from the High Holidays by publishing some of the talks given during services. You can find other Rosh Hashanah talks from past years here.]