She was already sitting in my row as I got onto the plane. With her hands folded in front and her elbows sticking over the armrests, she was what they call matronly. But she had an air about her that screamed activist. A garish medallion with Arabic swirls made me curious enough to ask where she was from.

"Palestine," she answered, more than a touch defiantly.

"Just like my father," I told her.

Our conversation never moved onto anything else. And never stopped and barely slowed down. She spoke just enough English to be able to fight with me.

"Deir Yassin," she challenged me. "Hebron," I answered.

I was seventeen; she must have been sixty.

"The English is me no good," she would fall back on whenever the conversation wasn’t going her way. She would then raise her hands to the overhead bins and exclaim: "My land! My land!"

"No," I assured her: "My land, my land."

The irony of it. The old-time Zionists — Herzl is the only one still remembered, but there were others — spoke of "attaining" the land to "normalize" the Jewish people. The French have France; the Germans, Germany; and the Jews will have the Jewish state. No more would they be "a people apart"; they would become "a nation among nations." No longer would they be the people of the Book (definite article); they would be the people who gave the world a book.

All that separated the Jews from the family of nations, argued Herzl’s devotees, was their peculiar dress, grooming, and habits. In their own land they will lose all these idiosyncrasies, and with no yarmulke, no sheitel, no kosher, no Shabbos, no bris to differentiate them, the Jews would assume their rightful place in the family of nations.

I wear a yarmulke, I keep kosher, and well, you get the picture. But when a conversation with a stranger takes a turn to a Jewish topic, it nearly always begins with — and always gets passionate with — "what’s going on over there in the Middle East?"

Some are with us. Some are against us. But everyone identifies that place with us. That identity, which was supposed to normalize us, is the lightning rod for all that makes us different.

The irony. Christian anti-Semitism penalized Jewish livelihood, ghettoized Jewish residence, and slandered Jewish honor. To escape the Dreyfus Affair in the west and pogroms in the east, some Jews in Europe turned to an ancient homeland to become a nation among nations. That homeland has now kicked up Islamic anti-Semitism. (Islamic anti-Semitism was always breathtakingly vitriolic, but it had never created a movement spanning from Morocco to Pakistan until the 20th century.) And now Christian philo-Semitism, along with Christian and secular anti-Semitism, are expressed in the land-people notion.

The UN condemns, curses, whines, and gripes more about Israel than they do about all the rest of the world combined. Ivy League student bodies and their professors couch anti-Semitism in anti-Zionist slogans. In Europe — oh enough, you’ve read it just like I have, but I’ll never forget the Arab in Casablanca who threw a plastic cup at me and screeched "Zionist!" Or the street bum on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue Express who folded his New York Times, lowered his reading glasses, and started berating me about the Palestinians. The last great hope of making us worthy of inclusion is what secludes us. Even the Diaspora communities. Especially the Diaspora communities.

In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth. A curious opening for a giver of laws: one that doesn’t escape the Talmudists. Why did the Book not begin with the first law, the first call to action, instead of the telling of the story of creation? Rashi answers: To assert Jewish ownership over Israel - He who created the earth deeded this portion of it to this, His people.

Remarkable, that real estate title precedes G‑d’s gift to mankind. Remarkable that the world’s all-time bestseller is so tied to this declaration of entitlement. More remarkable, the attention given to its detractors. Remarkable that Rashi, one thousand years ago — a mere generation before the Crusades slaughtered his grandchildren — begins his classic commentary focusing on a Mediterranean shoreline he never saw.

"It’s what the Jews do that counts, not what everyone else says," Ben Gurion is purported to have declared. Maybe, then, we should revisit Rashi. Go back to the beginning. This land is ours and this mission is ours. We cannot be separated from it, nor do we really want to.

Irony is G‑d’s humor. The land-people connection that was meant to separate the Book from the people has metamorphosed into a land-people connection that embodies the connection between Him, His people, and His Book.

To say the land does not belong to the Jews may perhaps fly in the face of history, no matter where you are sitting. It most certainly flies in the face of He who wrote, "In the beginning." The rest, as they say is history. My land. My land.