Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
I just returned from a week in Israel. It wasn’t a tour and I wasn’t leading a group. Instead, the AIEF (American-Israel Education Foundation) of AIPAC, invited me to join sixteen other progressive rabbis (Reform and Conservative) to participate in an intensive and comprehensive week-long examination of issues in Israel.
As soon as possible and throughout the year, I intend to unpack my notes, observations, and stories through sermons, blogs and discussions. To begin, let me tell you that closed-door and off-the-record meetings with Israeli officials revealed much, but my notes won’t prevent me from sharing some important conclusions and new insights. For example, a face-to-face meeting with a chief Palestinian negotiator in Ramallah, was a remarkably revealing experience about conditions there. Just reaching the “State of Palestine” offices was part of a well-orchestrated plan. But, in the north, at the Lebanon border, we entered a terror tunnel dug by Hezbollah; it was the one reported recently in some news sources. We went deep into the tunnel on muddy steps and saw just how close terrorists had come to destroy Israeli lives. These few words can’t do justice to the horror we saw and felt in that tunnel. Later, I’ll tell you more about the implications of this place and the meaning of our role in securing Israel’s future.
Before our trip ended, we also stopped to see how children and adults with special abilities are serving in the IDF, and in national service. Daniel, a blind young man, spoke proudly about his contributions to the IDF, and how his beret, worn proudly, makes him one among many who serve their country. And, finally, we met children who found refuge, education, love and hope away from their abusive homes. Established in 1969, this home-away-from-home was filled with joyful and loving (and loved) children who believed in their bright futures. Their songs and gifts to us were moving and inspiring.
On the way home from Israel, an airlines ticket agent at JFK asked me if it was my first time in Israel. No, I told her, I had been many times. Then she asked if Israel was safe. Smiling, I told her that I felt safer in Israel, at any time of day, than I often do at home in Houston, in broad daylight. Maybe it’s time for you to come to Israel, too.
Congregation Beth Israel’s next trip to Israel will be May 31-June 10, 2020. Our trip is not a vacation; it’s a mission filled with education, site visits, special guest speakers, delicious food, and memories of a lifetime. Please see our website for some details. More information about costs and itinerary will come soon as more details are confirmed.
Now that I’m home, I can look back at Israel as a place of amazing challenges and equal amounts of readiness and hope. Be a lover of Israel, the land and our people. Read more than the headlines and national sources; go to the source and learn for yourself what is possible in a region of impossibilities. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first president, said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” After another meaningful trip, I can say that while I’ve always been a realist, I also believe in miracles in Israel.
Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights, 2011) available on Amazon.com. He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM every Sunday at 6:45am CST. Listeners around the greater Houston area, and now the internet, tune in to hear his words about life and its meaning from a Jewish point-of-view. Each radio program is available as a Podcast, called “Heart to Heart with Rabbi David Lyon”. Click here to listen online, or download the iHeartRadio app.