CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.
CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

They wandered in a desert for forty years. They were exiled from their land. They were enslaved. They were persecuted. They were outcasts. They were blamed for natural disasters; blamed for economic woes. They were forced from their homes. They were slaughtered by the millions, several times over.

And every year they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” remembering the homeland of their fathers.

They arose, decimated, from amidst their own ashes and found the courage to return to their only home. They valorously chose to hope they may one day be free from the grip of tyranny and senseless death. They had the foresight to ensure their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would one day live in freedom and security. They made a way in the wilderness for their posterity to be able to protect themselves and the generations to come from those who would wish to wipe them from the face of the Earth.

Jews at the Western Wall praying on Passover.
Jews at the Western Wall praying on Passover.

And they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” fearing their children may grow up to see their homeland taken.

They had the bravery to be a nation amidst those who would kill them and establish a state, which would be a haven for all people. But more than anything, they found their way home to Jerusalem. They claimed what had been taken from them.

And standing in the city of their forefather’s they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” remembering their fathers and mothers killed in camps still saying those very same words.

They faced down enemies who wished to destroy them before they could have a chance to be whole again.

They survived and now they have thrived.

They returned home.

They still say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but with the hope Jerusalem will be there for them.

And when faced with senseless hate, they ask, “Why?”

We are a people; we are a state born of strife.

We are a diamond pressed by hate.

We hear the call of our homeland.

We weep for the ones stripped away from us.

We live in their memory.

We are Israel.

In 1948 we said for the first time in thousands of years on the streets our forefathers walked, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

So call me Israel. Call me Jew.

This is my homeland. This is where I am free and where I will stand.

For posterity I will say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For posterity, together, we will say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Alaska University Maria Lilly.

Learn more about the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here.

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