Israel Trip Post- Returning Home
We arrived home right before Shabbat. Some remained in Israel and the rest left on our respective flights around 11:30pm. Each of us is adjusting to life at home. Surely we are glad to be home and resume the creature comforts of our normal life. No more deadlines to a meet a bus at 7:30am. No more worrying about where are next stop will be. No more concerns about the security. We are now back in charge of the pace of our lives. This is as it should be. It will take most of us a few days to a week to readjust to the time zone and to get the sleep we all need. That will come and we can address ourselves to telling the stories of our trip to all our friends. And surely there will be many stories!
From my perspective, the trip introduced most of the first timers to Israel to a new perspective about Israel that transcends everything that the media reports and others who we know have visited Israel in the past have shared with us. We saw it with our own eyes. We experienced it with our hearts and souls. We listened to everyone’s perspectives and we saw a living and breathing civilization. It is a miracle of history yet we all understood that the challenges Israel still faces from internal and external forces are real too. We have embraced the dream and we saw some of the realities. They are all part of the tapestry of what Israel means to Israelis and to all Jews around the world.
We learned that Israel’s security is paramount in our mind but more than that is the culture and the spirit of the people that have created the miracle of Israel. When we visited the Herzl museum and learned about the beginnings of Zionism only about 115 years ago and then sat inside Independence Hall where David Ben Gurion declared the modern state of Israel and then standing on the Golan Heights overlooking the frontier of where Israel expanded its borders and defended them in the Yom Kippur War, and then standing at the graves at the Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. These experiences and many more we experienced helped us all to grasp the drama, the victory, the glory and the pain of israel’s birth and its struggle for existence. My sense is that this group has added a new perspective of how the Israelis have made sense of it all and that too is part of the miracle of Israel.
We also learned once again the time honored lesson that understanding history is part and parcel of our search for meaning. But this time it is not just about recent history but on this trip it was expanding our horizons about ancient history. We walked underground at the Wall in Jerusalem, beneath the tunnels in the City of David southeast of the Temple. We walked through the remnants of Herod’s world at Masada, Caesaria and the Holy Temple. We could experience the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum. All of this and more proved to us that our presence in the land of Israel was established long ago. And in that way our sense of Jewish identity is no longer dependent upon our roots in Europe. Sure that is where we usually trace our identity. It is only natural to think of ourselves and our forbearers. But now it is time to go beyond to embrace our historic roots in the civilization of Israelite culture and the Bible itself. This is why the early Zionists, Ben Gurion particularly, emphasized the Bible as a historic map for our people and stressed its reading as a living document and the key to unlocking our past so that Jews would embrace the modern state of Israel as the legitimate continuation of the ancient Jewish and Hebraic civilization.
The Israel trekkers have much to consider in their reflections upon how this trip has impacted their lives. My sense is that the new friendships that were made will become some of the long lasting benefits from this trip. In that way it makes for a stronger congregation at Beth Yam for encouraging this kind of commitment to Israel but also this trip builds a better congregation. I hope we can have more trips sponsored by our temple to Israel and to other Jewish communities around the world who are affiliated with Progressive Judaism.
It was my privilege to lead this group and I want to thank them and the leadership of the congregation for giving their blessing to organizing this trip. Thank God for bringing everyone back in good health. Keyn Yehi Ratzon. May it be God’s will.