On Friday, Matan’s school had a great fieldtrip for Tu’Bshvat. Tu’Bshvat is the holiday that marks the new year of the trees and it’s a day when people go out and plant trees all over Israel. On Friday, the parents were invited to Matan’s school to plant trees with the kids. There is something so special and holy about using your own hands to dig into Israeli soil and to plant a new tree – a new piece of Eretz Yisrael.
Josh took this picture of Matan at the planting, and I was trying to figure out why the picture makes me want to cry. And then I remembered.
When Josh and I were backpacking through Europe years ago, we went to Auschwitz. I assumed that visiting a concentration camp was going to be a difficult experience, but I could never have guessed what it was that set me off. Just as we walked into the camp, I saw in front of us a huge group of Israeli kids. They had wrapped themselves in Israeli flags, they were waving huge flags over their heads, and they were walking through Auschwitz singing “Hatikva.” I was so incredibly overcome at the sight of them that I was unable to stop bawling or to continue. Josh asked me if I needed to leave. “No,” I said, “I just need to cry.”
I had certainly learned about and read about Auschwitz a great deal. I knew what I was going to see there. What I hadn’t read about – and what I hadn’t expected – was this incredibly powerful image. These kids were shouting at Hitler. They were declaring – with their hearts, their flags, their bodies and their voices – that we will not be defeated. We will rise from the ashes and from the agonizing torture that we’ve endured to build a country. We will give birth to the future in this country, again and again and again, continuing the Jewish people in our homeland.
Could the victims of the Holocaust have envisioned that kids – free Jewish kids who live in a Jewish country – would come marching through Auschwitz with their heads held high and their flags waving?
And so, to this day, when I see one of my kids – my Israeli kids – next to an Israeli flag, it gives me the chills. My children are part of the answer to the Holocaust. My children are learning to use their hearts and their bodies to continue the Jewish people and to stand proudly and free next to their flag.
And today, we plant trees in this beautiful country so that it may continue to grow and to be strong for all of us.