In Denmark, exploring his Jewish identity was a constant struggle. Denmark and its surrounding countries are known for their many great accomplishments – free education, universal health care, leaders of the environmental movement – but supporting their Jewish people in their struggle against anti-semitism has never been on the forefront of anyone’s agenda. In Denmark, the sense of Jewish community is a struggle, as Jews are few and far between – around 4,000 in the entire country, to be exact. The joys of tradition and religion are tainted with ignorance and hatred. Our Danish friend knows he’s Jewish, but he also knows all the repercussions that accompany his identity.
On Friday night, we travelled with our Danish friend to the Western Wall. He travels to the men’s side, quickly turning his phone on silent and shuffling through his pockets to find his Kippah.
On the women’s side, we enjoy our time, but we peep over to watch him over the barrier. He enters apprehensively, but is immediately greeted by orthodox men, secular men, and soldiers, all opening their arms and hearts to him. They sing ancient songs from Torah, and they dance throughout the night, celebrating their common ancestry, and at present, their people – each as individuals, but all together as one.
As we left the Kotel, our friend had tears in his eyes, and was moved beyond speech. The shame and frustration that have accompanied the struggle to find his Jewish identity seemed to have disappeared, or at least left for a little while. In this present moment, in the land of Israel, this man is with his people, in his home, embracing something that he’s had to hide his whole life.
This place is special to many people for different reasons, but at that moment, it was clear to the both of us why the Homeland is so important. And that is because – for no other reason more complex than need be – it is home.