The image (left) is a reference to this week’s Torah reading, Sh’lach Lecha. In it, the spies visit the land of Israel for the first time and bring back some of the remarkable produce they found, including the grapes seen above. It is the first time someone ever “visited” Israel for a tour rather than moving there to live. It is an apt historical moment to recall by the Ministry of Tourism.
The part of the story that is not conveyed in the picture is that the spies come back from their tour and talk about how wonderful the land is, but then immediately say that the Israelites will not be able to settle there – due to the giants who already live there. They enjoyed being tourists, but living there just wasn’t in the cards. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, said that they acknowledge the challenges but wish to live there anyway.
For many of us, this is our relationship with Israel. It is a place we love and we love to visit, but will never be our home. Whether it be because of our comfort here in Canada or because of cultural/ political differences, we live here and not there. We can appreciate Israel even if living there is not for us.
It is not a surprise, therefore, that Israelis will view those of us who live in the Diaspora differently. They deal with the unique challenges that living in Israel provides while we express our support or concern from miles away. They know that living in Israel is hard, just as the spies suggested years ago, but live there anyway and deal with its problems in their own way. There will always be a difference in our relation to Israel between settlers and tourists, people who have chosen to make their lives in a place and those who visit for a vacation. That struggle is as old as this week’s portion and, I have a feeling, will continue to endure for many more years to come.