SHORTLY after the end of the October war, my wife, I, and our six-month old daughter moved into the house we had built on nearly an acre of land in the hilltop village of Z. “What will you do with so much land?” my Israeli friends asked me concernedly, whereas I was worried about how to get along with so little: at the very least I wanted flower beds, a rock garden, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, a chicken run, room for a donkey, and space enough left over to set aside as a nature reserve. I had been land hungry ever since I could remember, which is to say, even as a small city boy whose practical knowledge of the green world beyond New York consisted largely of the ability to recognize, if not consistently to avoid, poison ivy, and it had grieved me to have to sell the one-hundred-fifty acres that I owned in the state of Maine in order to help pay for our acre in Z.-all the more so, because they didn’t even cover the full cost of it.
Proportionally, it might be argued that I wasn’t striking a bad bargain, since by exchanging one-twelve-millionth of the land area of the United States for one-five-millionth of that of Israel I was trading fewer shares for more, but I found such statistics cold comfort. I had remained the same size; so had the world; and it was less mine than before.
About the Author
Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.