Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 42 - Rabbi Kobi Weiss

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

My dear country. I grew up in an Ultra-Orthodox family. And still, I remember, that we strictly followed the “Halachot” (laws) of Independence Day, including going to central squares that had totally secular entertainment arenas. 

It was unusual in my childhood landscape. Just imagine my grandfather, the

ultra - orthodox man, standing there, listening to jokes of Tiki Dayan (famous Israeli comedian).

My father’s family emigrated to Israel on your “Bar Mitzvah” year, on your 13th birthday in 1961. It was the day of Independence. They were very impressed by the number of flags everywhere, which unfurled in their honor.

This was the end of a very long process, trying to arrive here, filled with endless attempts of numerous harassments from the Romanian NKVD towards my grandfather, who was the head of the Jewish community. Before he was able to get to Israel, after two failing attempts to escape the Romanian border, he was put in prison. 

Independence day used to combine family celebration with feelings of gratitude for the country’s actual existence, which allowed real Jewish life of freedom to all its inhabitants. 

The Zionist religious family of my mother, arrived here on an illegal ship from Austria, in 1939. My grandmother needed to cancel a “shidduch” in order to get here. Needless to say what happened to her fiance. 

Being a Home for all the inhabitants was a profound experience which crossed lines and camps. 

Unfortunately, dangerous winds are blowing in our home. Many good people no longer feel at home. The ultra-orthodox and orthodox public have gone through processes of radicalization and segregation, and the general public is also ripped and torn. The feeling of a place, in the deeper sense, of acceptance and inclusion of all members of the home, are not obvious. 

The Declaration of Independence declares about “the right of the Jewish people to rebuild a new national home”, but only when he was in Florida, the poet Natan Yonatan understood that: “Home is a place, that if you must go back to, the door is always open for you”. 

My dear country, may it be so that you will go back to granting a feeling of home to all who live here. 

Home, in the “simple” sense of unconditional sense of belonging, a home of place and rootedness, home of memories, home where whoever lives there feels part of the family even when someone shouts: “Who finished the hot water in the shower?” You learn to accept each other’s craziness. 

Home is a place where you don’t need to wonder whether you belong. It’s a place that needs to be pleasant. Simply, a home. 


Rabbi Kobi Weiss

Rabbi Kobi Weiss is a teacher of Jewish thought and culture. He is active in the areas of social justice and education about exhaustion of rights and policy change for people who live under the poverty line at “Rabbis for Human Rights”.

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