I was born and raised in Sydney, Nova Scotia. And I spent the better part of my 17 years there believing that I lived in a special place. Actually, I was told that in no uncertain terms by pretty much every adult I knew; Nova Scotia and more specifically, Cape Breton Island, was God’s Country. Everyone in Cape Breton called it God’s Country and I never doubted it.
If you have ever driven over Smokey Mountain on the way to the Cabot Trail, you have seen its natural beauty for yourself. And if you made it as far as Cape North on a sunny day, you may have actually seen a piece of heaven.
Or so I thought.
Then seven years ago I moved to Israel, which is considered by millions of people worldwide to be God’s Country.
Hence the dilemma. Where precisely is God’s Country?
Yes, Israel is part of the cradle of civilization. Cape Breton surely is not because the people who live there are generally adverse to more civilized living. When they desire moments of civility…. they get on a plane and go somewhere else to find it. Then they go home.
Cape Bretoners are not particularly interested in progress and modernization. They like things just as they are (and as they have always been). Not like Israel, which is considered by many to be the next largest concentration of high-tech brain power outside of Silicon Valley in California.
Is it possible that God has two homes — His winter abode in Israel and when the weather gets too hot here, He shifts to his northern summer home in Cape Breton? If I were Him, I would pick that option. Why upset the Cape Bretoners who think they have a piece of Him when He can just as easily shift location in the summer?
There is one advantage to Cape Breton that I think Israelis would actually like. Cape Breton is all but completely ignored by the outside world. No one there is in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything. And no superpowers are giving them instructions on how to live their lives. There are no katusha missiles aimed at its population. Cape Bretoners never worry about their kindergartens being blown up or getting on a bus.
Something about all that peacefulness makes you really wonder if it might actually be God’s Country.
I don’t think that the snow or the everlasting cold are working in Cape Breton’s favour, but what do I know? Maybe tobogganing and skiing are holy experiences. Of course, maybe sitting on the beach in Netanya or overlooking the Negev as the sun is coming up are as well.
The people who choose to live on the edges of Cape Breton — literally in the middle of nowhere — do so to be alone. They must; what other reason would someone have to move to a cold, perpetually damp, rocky cliff on the edge of the sea?
People who move to the outer parts of Israel do so to inhabit those places and secure them as Jewish land. These Israelis are securing the frontiers of this tiny state – not militarily, but emotionally. The exact opposite of the Cape Breton logic.
The people who live at the outer reaches of Israel are not trying to get away from civilization. Many of them made conscious decisions to play an active role in populating the outer reaches of the country. I see them as Israel’s remaining pioneers.
Both places have lots of beautiful mountains and vistas. But just over Israel’s mountains live some of the least friendly neighbours anyone could ask for. If you look too far over the edge of a mountain in Cape Breton you will be swimming with the whales — Cape Breton doesn’t really have any neighbours and even if it did… how could you not love a Cape Bretoner?
So you can see the dilemma. Where exactly is God’s country?
Both are holy in their own way. The best bet is to visit both and decide for yourself.