How is it that people over the last millennia have been fighting over Israel, a tiny parcel of land in the backyards of Lebanon, Egypt and Syria, when it is less compelling financially and security wise than places like England and France (or America and Canada)? And, why is it that people obsess -- to the point where their contacts are literally popping out from watching CNN and reading the news -- over every little move the Israelis make? The Syrians might be killing each other in cold blood, the Armenians might be howling for revenge over the recent Armenian genocide and still, it's the Jewish people everyone's got his eye on. Juicy details could technically be making the rounds in the local news and people would still prefer pshawing over the Israeli Occupation in Palestine.
What gives? Do we really matter that much?
Clearly, something extraordinary is at work here.
Most of the world could not articulate its fascination in all things connected to Israel and its people. This is because they do not recognize that their fascination is based more in the essence of the land and the essence of Judaism rather than its topography or secular culture. But, if one cannot articulate his innermost feelings and thoughts, he may pass through this small Middle Eastern country, thinking to check out her famed Tel Aviv night life or the fields of poppies in the Golan Heights. S/he would never know to dig further than her surface beauty in search of more. And eventually, that person, like all tourists, will move on to experience the night life in Tokyo or the Northern Lights of the Arctic Circle. Because there's nothing of permanence tying him down.
And yet, many of these people end up staying anyway. Why? What's with the excess obsession?
Even though people don't realize it, the spiritual grandeur that gives easier access to hidden reservoirs of personal greatness is what draws people here. However, their level of awareness as well as their level of yearning for a life with meaning and purpose has the last word in how connected they truly feel with this unique country. It is the place where heaven and earth meet. When one's purpose in coming to Israel is to breath in the air, the spiritual vapor that is unique to this land, then there's no limit to what s/he can experience. Then, s/he will feel inclined to stay, sometimes, for the rest of his life.
The Holy Land is a place where people have become acquainted with and married to their spiritual destinies many times.
But, like all good marriages, it is crucial to pay attention. One has to know what to look for so that s/he can appreciate what his spouse has to offer or s/he may find himself despising the other. The same applies to this country -- one has to trump Israel's spiritual beauty over its physical beauty. otherwise, one may find the streets of Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world, dirty and covered in grime. But for those that recognize kedusha (an exalted state) when they see it, even the dirt of Eretz Yisrael sparkles.
To paraphrase an anecdote in his book Sacred Soil, Rabbi Moshe Wolfson explains the nature of one's relationship with Israel.
Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin explained the how of a Jew's not being drawn to the Land of Israel with the following parable: A matchmaker had proposed a boorish guy with a refined young women. When they met, the prospective bride immediately recognized that this guy did not possess the qualities she was seeking in a husband. Yet, since she was extremely sensitive to other people's feelings, she did not allow herself to reveal her low estimation of him. Instead, she made herself unappealing to him so that he would not be insulted or hurt since it would be him turning down the match, not her.
Similarly, when a person of questionable motivations -- motivations outside of matters of the spirit -- takes up residence in Eretz Yisrael, its sacred soil withholds its charms from its unappealing occupant. This Jew ends up finding Eretz Yisrael unattractive. And this may push him to leave to other, materialistically fertile, places.
However, one should not despair of his ever connecting to Israel. The rejection of the Land is not a permanent thing. It is always possible for a person to change the Land's, and in effect, G-d's, opinion of him. However, to gain favor in Eretz Yisrael's eyes, he may have to work on improving his own moral stature. If he does, Eretz Yisrael will eventually reveal her preciousness to him.
And s/he will usher in the age of the Messiah, may he come speedily in our days.