I would rather use one word instead of one thousand to describe what Israel means to me: Hebrew.
I belong to a Sephardic family. My great grandparents emigrated from Syria to Argentina in 1910. My mother was born in a very small town called Ballesteros located in Córdoba province, over 700 kilometers away from Buenos Aires. Other Jewish families were established in other towns in that same area. Being aware of the presence of each other, they organized themselves to pray during the High Holidays. They were concerned about their children’s Jewish education, and even before the independence of Israel was declared, they hired a Hebrew MOR’E (teacher).
Every Sunday my mother, a seven years old girl and her eldest brother waited by the road for a bus to stop. On that bus was the Hebrew teacher. He was red haired, my mother recalls. When the bus stopped my mother and my uncle got on. They kept on going till the next big city, Bell Ville. Fifteen Jewish boys and girls were waiting there. My mother recalls she learned to write in Hebrew her name: Simcha Romano. They use the book “Elef milim” -One thousand words.
Over 50 years later I sat in an ulpan classroom in Israel. I was in the ninth level out of ten. I had a Russian classmate who said he learned with a book called “Elef milim” – One thousand words.
Two different times. Two different countries. Two different cultures. One language. One people. Israel: One state for us all.