The Beauty of Israel

It is now one week before the Jericho Jewish Center trip to Israel, and Karina and I are very excited. We want to thank all the participants for making the trip possible. In a few short days, 24 of us will be travelling to Israel, some spending one and a half weeks, and others spending two full weeks.

I hope from our trip to Israel, we will explore the land of so much richness to our ancestors of so many generations, from the oasis of Ein Gedi, where King David fled from King Saul to the City of David, the original centerpiece of Jerusalem, to the Kotel, the retaining wall from our holy Temple in Jerusalem, to the Kabbalists of Tsfat to Independence Hall where the State of Israel was called into being. We will also get to see a natural wonder, the Ramon Crater in Mitzpeh Ramon in the Negev, and the gorgeous waterfall at Banias Nature Reserve, and reflect on the beauty of G-d’s creations. Masada, the Dead Sea and an evening in a Bedouin tent are highlights of the trip as well. In addition, we will do community service projects, helping out the underprivileged kids at the Neve Michael Youth Village and packing food for Israel’s poorest families. We will also get to learn about the perspective of soldiers on an army base as we share dinner with them, as well as hosting lone soldiers (who have no family in Israel) for lunch.

Why are we going to Israel? Three reasons. We are going to reconnect with the land of our ancestors and of our people today and to find our own personal meaning in its history, its culture and its beauty. It is one thing to intellectually learn about Israel or to read about it in the papers-quite another to actually experience it. We will be experiencing Israel in all its wonder and in all its complexity, strengthening our connection to this beautiful and inspiring country which produces major technological advances, engages in worldwide humanitarian efforts and strives to always act in the most ethical manner possible. In so doing, we will increase our appreciation of the Land of Milk and Honey and become armed with more knowledge and understanding to bring back to our local communities.

We are also going to appreciate that Israel is not something to be taken for granted through meeting with soldiers and going to the military cemetery at Mount Herzl. We will learn about many individuals, including David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin who made great sacrifices in order to create a homeland for their children and grandchildren…and for generations yet to come. In the words of the poet Natan Alterman, they are the “silver platter” on which Israel has been given to us. At the same time, we have a responsibility to deepen our connection with both the land of Israel and with Israelis. Through deepening our engagement with the land and the people, we become ambassadors for Israel and we “make it our own.”

Perhaps most importantly, we have an opportunity to show solidarity with our brethren in Israel at a time when they need our support. The news about violence in Israel has not been comforting, and we pray for an end to terrorism. At the same time, I believe that this is precisely why we must go-to show our solidarity with our brethren, that they are not alone, that we will not let terrorism scare us into staying back. Support for Israel when it is under attack is paramount, and we will give that support by meeting with Israelis from multiple walks of life, learning their stories and yes, supporting the Israeli economy through shopping. These are ways that Israel will become very real in our lives, and we will bring that richness back to Jericho.

I will try to blog from Israel on a daily basis so that everyone can keep informed on our trip’s progress. I look forward to sharing some insights from the Israel trip on Shabbat morning November 21 and in the weeks to come. L’shana Hazot B’yirushalayim-THIS year in Jerusalem!

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