Rabbi Chanina A Lovers Stones
The great Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Chanina, is described as demonstrating his love for Eretz Yisrael by picking up stones (Mesechta Ketubot 112a). There are two versions of what he actually did.
One is that he removed obstacles from city streets so that the roads of the land he so loved would not gain a bad reputation.
A second version deals with his arrival in his beloved country from Babylon. The Midrash recounts that in order to determine whether he had finally reached his destination, this Sage kept picking up stones on the way and testing their weight. He discarded the lightweight ones and eventually picked up some stones which had real substance. "These are stones of Eretz Yisrael," he excitedly proclaimed as he kissed them in fulfillment of King Davids description of "Your servants desiring its stones" (Tehillim 102:15).