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195http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/06/RabbiLyonsBlog-06_20_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 06_20_2014
06/20/2014 08:00 AM Posted by:

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
June 20, 2014

 

We’re home. Congregation Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary Tour to Israel, June 8-18, 2014, is now complete. Together, we explored, learned, absorbed and deepened our understanding about the Land and People of Israel. Ask any of the travelers about their experiences and they will agree with Marcia Nichols, our extraordinary trip chair, that this was not a vacation; it was an entrée to our people’s past, present and future.

                We landed in Tel Aviv on the morning of June 9th and our tour began immediately. A highlight was Independence Hall, where on May 14th, 1948, after the UN vote, David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the Land of Israel, “Medinat Yisrael”. We learned how, after the announcement was made, the new country went to war against neighboring Arab countries. The 1948 War of Independence, the Six-Day war of 1967, and the Yom Kippur war of 1973, became themes that held our attention. These modern wars were laid atop the ancient history of Israel that also knew war and exile, let alone the horror of the Holocaust and its meaning for us, today.

                History and politics were constant subjects as we made our way to the Golan in the north, to Jerusalem and surrounding areas, and to Masada and the Dead Sea. But, apart from the more familiar sights, there was no question that standing atop a hill in Sderot with Col. Bentzi Gruber to view Gaza, was among the most revealing moments we shared. Walking with Danny Tirza, the leader behind the development and construction of the “fence” protecting Israel from suicide murderers opened our eyes to the reality on the ground and the meaning of the boundary. Learning from Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the last Nazi hunter following our visit to Yad Vashem, deepened our appreciation for the cause for justice that has no statute of limitations. And, our evening lecture with Dr. Daniel Gold, the creator and inspiration behind the “Iron Dome”, was beyond exciting; and for Star Wars fans it was downright cool. In addition, our tour guide, Danny Apelbom, outdid himself with knowledge, humor, and friendship. The combination of learning, inspiration, and exposure to Israel in all its complexities filled our hearts and minds with hope for the Jewish people and all of humanity.

                If you asked me what’s a take-away from our visit, I would be hard-pressed to pick just one. But, let me begin by telling you what Col. Bentzi Gruber said to us while we stood on a hill in Sderot overlooking Gaza. He said, “Israel is the United States’ least expensive aircraft carrier.” Think about where the U.S. would be without Israel standing between the forces of hostile Arab nations that surround her and which share the same antipathy for the U.S. that they have for Israel. Israel is the only western democracy in the region and despite its daily barrage of misguided missiles from Gaza, which Israel withdrew from in 2005, the people of Israel chooses life and pursues the future with faith and hope, everyday.

                Many thanks to David Scott, Director of Lifelong Learning at Beth Israel, for joining me on the trip, and to my wife, Lisa, for adding spirit and joy to the friendships we deepened along the way. Marcia Nichols is a gem whose leadership over the past three Beth Israel trips to Israel made them what they were meant to be. As Shabbat comes, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the strength of the Jewish people here and everywhere and for the inspiration of the Land of Israel.

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