Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
We leave for Israel on Sunday, May 29th. More than 40 people are joining me, my wife, Lisa, and Rabbi Joshua Herman for a trip that will inspire, awaken, and engage us. Israel is called “Eretz Yisrael” the land of Israel. It’s also called “Ha’aretz” The Land, because the definite article says everything we need to know about our historical and modern aspirations for Israel. This is The Land that our ancestors aspired to return to since the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE; and though the Israelites returned to rebuild the Temple, not everyone returned, and the second Temple was destroyed forever by the Romans in 70 CE. Books of the Bible such as Lamentations record the yearnings for The Land and the hope that one day our people would return.
The significance of these dates in history moves the proverbial pointer on our timeline to before the Common Era as the beginning of our hope for a return to The Land. The Holocaust became a reason for modern Israel, but Israel wasn’t predicated on the Holocaust. It was always predicated on an age-old and aching hope that the promise God made to our patriarchs and matriarchs would be fulfilled one day. Modern day Israel became a salvation for the victims of the Holocaust who fled a war-torn and deeply anti-Semitic Europe. Since 1948, generations of Jews have called Israel the only home they’ve known, and for many others the land to which they came home. Our ancient hope has been realized in the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
On Sunday morning, when we arrive together to see, feel, hear, touch, and smell The Land, we will be forever changed by its history and modernity, its democracy and religious observances, its science and mysticism, and by its people and customs.
Highlights of our trip include an event at the Shamir Peace Center, a visit to Safed, the Jewish mystical city, the Dubrovin Farm for dinner and Israeli dancing, and Jeep rides for close-up encounters to the north where soldiers will educate us about the border with Syria. Jerusalem is a high point for all of us and will feature time at the Western Wall and Shabbat in the Holy City. A tour of Masada and the Dead Sea will take us to new heights and to the lowest place on earth. Yad Vashem and the Knesset will be unique moments for us. We have special speakers and lectures, amazing accommodations, delicious meals and great transportation, including a chartered bus with Wi-Fi and espresso, and camel rides without Wi-Fi.
Torah tells the story of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, who report to the Israelite people what they observed in the Land they were about to enter and possess. They described people and produce, hills and valleys that exceeded their imaginations and dwarfed them by comparison. It was a report that exhilarated them about the place that God promised would be “flowing with milk and honey.” With faith in themselves and in God’s presence, they made their way forward to begin what would be the journey of a people that, notwithstanding its trials and tribulations, persevered and triumphed to fulfill its mission to be “a light unto the nations.”
So, we begin. From north to south and east to west, we’ll replace myths with facts about The Land and its people; and, our time together we’ll grow as friends as we learn that Israel is our Land and our People, too.