If you have seen me with a smile on my face recently, then it is because many of those associated with Temple Sinai have recently visited Israel. Eric and Julie Littmann went on their first ever trip. Les and Barbara Gilbert visited family on their annual voyage. Rickie Orzen finally got to Israel with her son Mike after having planned a trip for years. Ilana Shapiro visited on a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project tour. Matt Guzman and his fiance Sarah purchased in Jerusalem, among other things, their ketubah. If I have missed anyone, I apologize but this has been just in the last month!
As much as I might preach on Israel and our connection to the land and the people, nothing can compare to the actual experience. As much as I explain how Israelis are our brothers and sisters, even though thousands of miles separate us, it only hits home when you witness what Ilana witnessed at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem: a unit of soldiers singing “Am Yisrael Chai” and dancing with civilians as they engaged in their training. It only becomes real when you are like Les and Barbara, sharing a meal with their children and grandchildren in the house where their family lives as Israeli citizens. It is a concrete experience when, like Matt and Sarah, you plan a Jewish wedding while walking around a Jewish country, like Eric and Julie, when you reflect on years of service to the Jewish People while walking through a living testament to their fortitude.
Many people, particularly in the light of terrible events like the shooting attack in Tel Aviv, ask me about the danger of visits to Israel. I say I can never give them a perfect guarantee but they would still need to have some very bad fortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the welcome and gratitude they will get from Israelis will be memorable. So, I know it’s expensive and time-consuming to get to Israel but, if you made it, thank you for strengthening your relationship with the mitzvah of ahavat tzion, loving Israel, and thank you, on that basis, for making me very happy.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen