A First Report from Israel
A First Report from Israel
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
On May 8th, David Scott and I left for Israel with 35 other travelers. Our experience was nothing short of amazing. From an easy passport and Covid check to a simple arrival in Tel Aviv, we began immediately to get our bearings, prepare for walking tours, and grow through inspired experiences. Our guide, Lyana Rotstein, is familiar to Beth Israel and a dear friend. She narrates history at historical sites with great interest and insights while weaving in contemporary issues and hopes. Our travelers were intrigued and enjoyed every moment. The weather was perfect, the food was plentiful and delicious, the group gelled immediately and engaged deeply.
Rather than report on what we did every day, let me just say that being in Israel is impossible to describe with words, alone. It’s Ha’Aretz, the Land, it’s Ha’am, the people, and it’s HaTikvah, the hope. These are all reflected in everything we saw, ate, heard, touched, smelled, and learned. Above all, we learned that “It’s complicated,” is a better way of explaining almost everything in Israel, than to summarize or conclude a subject too quickly or too efficiently. For instance, after an impressive and educational lecture at the Syrian border, overlooking the landscape into Syrian territory, I thanked the IDF officer for “getting us up-to-date — for the hour.” His half-smile let me know that he appreciated our group’s understanding that it’s a fluid situation every minute.
Jerusalem was a highlight for all the reasons you imagine. Each traveler found a moment along the way that was unique to him or her. Some wept. Others stood in awe. We all saw the Middle East, not as a headline written for us, but as a place that can’t be compared to any other geo-political region and must be understood on its own terms. As much as it affects other world issues, to misunderstand this place comes at great risk. As some say, “Anyone who claims to understand the Middle East completely hasn’t been fully informed.”
As the pandemic lifts and we live in an “AC,” after Covid world, our regular trips to Israel and other locations will continue. We continue because to be in Israel in one’s lifetime is a sacred pilgrimage. It makes us part of the continuum of our people’s unfolding story. Our guide, Lyana Rotstein said, “We should always look to the future, but a people without a past has no future.” It’s never a bad time to be in Israel. Ask any of our travelers and they’ll tell you that it was remarkable and safe. Then ask them about the Jordan River, the overlook near Gaza, the Western Wall Tunnels, the City of David, and the food…the food!
Upon our return from Ha’Aretz, May 19th, we’re prepared to build our future founded on the foundation stones of our ancestors, literally and figuratively, that enable us to feel optimistic and faithful about the years to come. Thank you, David Scott, for leading the trip with me; thank you Rabbi Adrienne Scott for tending to the congregation while I was gone; and many thanks to those who “came up” to Israel with us and returned with so much good to report. Shabbat Shalom.