Monday, December 29, 2008

Fine Wine

Fine wine has always been appreciated by all, from those who are involved in the process to those that partake of the final product. A vintner’s objective is to produce the best wine possible. In order to do so, he must seek out the best vineyards available – always placing quality above quantity. He needs the best to produce the best. Often his first step is to find a “grower” who shares the same values, to produce the best. He looks for a vineyard with top quality fruit, strong vines and roots that are deep and strong. Once found, this vineyard is regarded as a treasure, one to be cherished and nurtured, and if possible expanded upon. Providing the basic ingredient for award-winning wines, the grapes grown on these vines are then processed carefully, getting the most out of them. Putting them in the proper environment so they can develop to their fullest potential is of utmost importance. The finished product is a source of pride to all involved, from those at the beginning to the one who ultimately tastes the wine.

Developing a nation follows much of the same process - start with the best available product - material that is strong, connected to the land and its people, and then provide a good, strong environment for the maturing process. In most cases, when these factors come together, a win-win situation blossoms.

I look today at Israel as a nation, similar to that of the vintner. I see Yehuda and Shomron as a vineyard from where prize-winning grapes are harvested. The IDF is a prime example. It is no secret that many of the elite troops are made up of a large proportion of soldiers raised in the communities of Yehuda and Shomron. Officers trained in the IDF preparatory institutions from YESHA are among the most sought after.

These “vines” are grown in ground that is fertile with Judaism and our rich heritage and history. They have developed roots that grow deep and strong. Their vines continue to stretch out producing the highest quality fruit. They are then harvested and matured in an environment that is abundant with our traditional values, while maintaining an everlasting connection to the earth from where they come. The final product being some of the highest quality produced.

Common sense tells us that such a vineyard should be nurtured, protected and strengthened. Such are our communities throughout Yehuda and Shomron. If Israel is to continue to produce some of the best defenders of the Jewish people, these modern day Maccabees and their environments must continue to grow and develop. It is obvious that to produce the best all must be involved, from the grower all the way down the line to the taster.

We ask these soldiers to go into the field of battle and do the best they can for all of us as a people - to leave their families, their spouses and children - often far away from their homes for weeks at a time. The least we can do for them is to continue to nurture the communities that produced such gems. We need to play our role of protecting their families so as to enable them to do their job knowing that their families are safe. We, as a people must recognize the value of these communities and stand strong in the face of those that wish to diminish and take away one of the main resources of our strength and history.

The communities in which these children are raised are filled with a strong Jewish identity - not just historically but in the current-day actions and ways which they live their lives. They are taught, not to be ashamed of who they are or where they come from, but rather to focus upon only bettering themselves as people and defenders of the land of Israel. Connection to our people, land and history are paramount. Taking trips around the country, connecting them with all of the land is part of their regular education and vacation time - all the while being shown our historical and ancestral belonging to our homeland. Being a productive member of the Jewish People is a value that is taught along with being proud and strong and not bending before our enemies. The list goes on and on. This “vineyard” has become a true “natural” resource for some of the best “wine” produced today.

I was recently with a group of soldiers outside of Gaza, delivering a gift to them from a family from the United States. I was amazed at the high level of morale, despite the political atmosphere. We spoke of the challenges before them, the dangers they face and so on. One of the soldiers stood and spoke for the group, and said they are doing this for the Jewish People and our Land. He spoke how the connection with Jews abroad adds to their motivation and strengthens their connection to the land - all of the land. He insisted that this message must get out, that we must show the world our connection to all of the land and not let politics or politicians dictate what is ours and what is not. All of this and more coming from a group of soldiers ages ranging from 19 to 21, not yet corrupted by the political world.

Listening to them is the same as listening to the kids growing up in many of the communities of Yehuda and Shomron and indeed there were many representatives from these communities in this unit.

It is no coincidence that some of the best wines of Israel are coming out of Yehuda and Shomron. Awards from prestigious contests continue to pour into many of the wineries throughout the region. Just as it is no coincidence that some of the best soldiers today in the Jewish army hail from these communities and the awards that they continue to receive.

Separately we are weak, together we are strong. We will always have our differences - such is the reality of a family – especially one derived from the “stiff-necked people”. If we look back a bit on our recent history, one of the main ingredients to our “unity” has been the return to our State of Israel - its birth and development. The direction in which Israel developed has been a main factor in the growth and success of the Jewish People throughout the world. When that mission changed over the last decade our unity suffered as did our strength and pride. Yehuda and Shomron represent that same idealism that brought us together so many years ago and today provides that main ingredient to return us to that idealism which we so cherished. It is our national treasure.

We must all be involved with this national treasure and we must teach the same values that are taught in these communities. We must continue to nurture it so it may grow and expand till our cups are flowing over with its goodness.

Chanukah Sameach!

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