There is really no time that I feel as overwhelmingly happy as when I land at Ben Gurion Airport. I'm not a clapper - the spontaneous applause that always breaks out when the plane touches down does not draw me in. But walking with my suitcase from baggage pickup out into the arrival hall is always a big thrill. A short time later, armed with my first kafeh hafukh (the distinctly Israeli cousin of cappucino) and a rented Daihatsu, I saunter forth onto the highway with rinnah (joyous song) in my heart and Reshet Gimmel (the only radio station that plays exclusively Hebrew-language music) on the stereo.
The beach is, of course, gorgeous at night. Looking out over the water, I see slowly=moving lights in the distance - Jewish guardians of this corner of the Mediterranean perhaps, or maybe the merchant marine hauling bananas to European markets. Mellow Israeli music floats out from the bar, and as I nurse a half-liter (of Stella Artois, unfortunately; the only Goldstar in sight is the label on the stein), I consider and reconsider the wonder that is the Jewish state.
I belong here; these are my people. I am reminded of the sentiment in Joel Engel's well-known art song, "Shenei Mikhtavim" (Two Letters), featuring the lyrics of Avigdor Hameiri:
לא אזוז מפה לעד!
Lo azuz mipo la-ad!
I will not move from here forever!
Of course, I'm returning to galut (the Diaspora) on Thursday night. But the yearning of 2000 years remains with me always. These are my people; I belong here.