I am fulfilling my dream. I’m 19 years old, living in the country of our people, and fulfilling the word of Hashem. I was raised in Teaneck, NJ and attended Moriah Day School. I went on to TABC in Teaneck for high school. Rabbi Yisrael Silverman and Rabbi Yosef Adler, the Mara D’Atra of my shul, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, excelled at teaching their students about Religious Zionism.
I spent 10 summers in Camp Moshava, the last three of them as a counselor. My education surrounded me with people who constantly stressed the importance of Eretz Yisrael. I graduated TABC in 2011 and then went to Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem for two years.
Since March, I have been in the army, in an Infantry Unit called Givati, (that’s the unit with the purple berets) stationed down south, approximately 45 minutes from Be’er Sheva, near the Egyptian border. I am in Basic Training in a battalion of yeshiva students only, a group of us who are fulfilling our service requirements through the Hesder program. It requires a year and-a-half of Torah study in a yeshiva framework, 16 months of army service, and then a return to yeshiva for another year and-a-half of learning.
I traveled to Israel many times with my family and on Bnei Akiva programs. Every time I look out the window as I ride along Israeli roads, looking out at the mountains, sand, and trees, I feel a sense of belonging. More than once I have told myself, “This is mine; this country is my home, and the place that I belong.” Now that I have joined the army, I tell myself, “This is yours; love it and defend it.” I find myself awake throughout the longest bus rides, while everyone else is sound asleep. I stare out the window and smile. I love my country.
Though I lived in Bergen County, I grew up in an Israeli culture. My mother was born in Israel 26 years after my grandparents fled from Romania and spoke to me in Hebrew until I was 4 years old. We had only Israeli babysitters at home from the time I was born, until I was in middle school. I watched Israeli videos, listened to Hebrew music, and best of all, ate Israeli style food! I grew up in an Israeli culture, speaking with Israeli guests and relatives, and I believe that my home was the springboard for my love and passion for Israel.
My summers at Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, had an Israeli feel that I loved, and attached me to the values Bnei Akiva stresses. I owe so much to them, because they taught me what it means to be part of the Klal, part of Am Yisrael. They instilled within me a profound love for the land and Torah of our people. Bnei Akiva truly instilled leadership skills and Zionistic passion in my life.
When I told my parents I was interested in serving in the IDF, they were right beside me and there to support me. My father helped me research through Nefesh B’Nefesh all of my options. My parents were extremely proud of me, albeit very apprehensive and worried, as parents should be.
I have a quintessential Israeli story to tell: One Erev Shabbat, I almost missed a bus. I ran from the train station to the bus stop about, 500m away. I was carrying a very heavy bag, and it was about 90 degrees with no breeze or clouds. I ran as fast as I could, almost tripping over myself. Just as the bus was pulling away, the doors swung open, and the bus driver smiled at me and let me on. After I paid and sat down, with my cloths sticking to the seat, and having the dusty air conditioning blow in my face, the Chiloni guy sitting across from me extended a Sprite bottle to me. A water bottle was offered to me by the haredi man next to me, as well as by the little girl sitting next to her mom in front of me. I sat there smiling saying, “Welcome to Israel.”
Every part of the country speaks to me; every experience makes me love the country; every area of Torah connects me to our roots. The things I miss most about Bergen County are my family and my friends. But I made a very clear and easy decision: I am living here, IY”H, for the rest of my life. I am going to create for myself a new life here in Israel, the land of our people, and I will do everything I possibly can to support her and to ensure her security and existence.
By Natan Wind