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Perspective Matters

A resident arrived to these shores was trying to orient himself to his new land.
“Tell me something” he asked a friend. “How far is it from New York to Philadelphia?”

About 100 miles,” answered the friend.

And from Philadelphia to New York?”

Why, it is the same distance, naturally.”

What’s so natural, retorted the newcomer. Backwards and forwards is not necessarily the same distance.
For example, from Purim to Passover is one month. But from Passover to Purim, isn’t it 11 months?”

Professor Higgins: “Good morning sir. How are you?”
Professor Einstein: “Relative to what?”

…and everything is, isn’t it?

Israel Trip – Final day

It’s the last night in Israel for most of the group as we depart for the return to Asheville. We’ve had a marvelous trip, very educational and very entertaining. We’ve had joyous times and emotional times that have left none of us unchanged. We know Israel and each other much better.

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to speak to us upon our return,

Marty and the rest of the gang.

Israel Trip- Days 8 & 9

Thursday we gathered for a Bat Mitzvah, a Bar Mitzvah and a naming ceremony at a fantastic overlook over the old city of Jerusalem.

Friday was getting ready for Shabbat, so we visited the great market to buy stuff.

In the evening we gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat overlooking the wall.

Here’s the old city wall as seen as the sun set tonight and the sirens sounded for the beginning of Shabbat.

This group performed wonderful music just before the beginning of Shabbat in a nearby old railroad station that was converted to a mall with shops and restaurants. The music was very different but beautiful, sort of like Spanish sounding.

Israel Trip – Days 6 & 7

We’ve had a couple of very busy days. We spent one night in a Bedouin camp and rode camels through the desert. 

Then it was on the road at 4 am and our group was among the first to hike up to Masada where we watched the sunrise and then toured the site. Later we visited the Dead Sea and finally made our way to Jerusalem.

And finally we arrived in Jerusalem. We’ll post more about the very moving B’nai Mitzvah ceremony we had today but we’ll end with one picture from the Western Wall.

Here’s also a link from writings of Rick Chess who is traveling with our group and a link to the essay he wrote about Amichai in preparation for our pilgrimage.  Amichai is the world renowned poet of Jersualem, and my short essay was published on Good Letters just before we left for our trip.

Israel Trip – Day 5

Today was a amazing day starting with a Jeep ride in the Golan Heights and ending with a very meaningful visit with soldiers of the IDF who are defending Israel. We were within sight of Lebanon and Syria for much of the day.

Today’s journey was not about a destination, was not about discovering yet another landmark, but rather about understanding and knowing the Israeli citizens who are moved to defend and support their beloved homeland. Yes, we traveled into the Golan Heights and visited the bunkers of Mt Bernal. And, yes, I felt cradled by this land that borders Syria, gun fire, missiles, and is home to so many who are simply praying to a life safe from harm’s way. The reality is otherwise- everyone, Syrian or Israeli, must find peace in spite of always present dangers.

I digress. This note is about the people, not only about the land. Today we met Yakov, a man who served in the IDF and who now works for Slingshot, speaking to many, including young 18 and 19 year old soldiers who, not so long ago, were perhaps writing high school papers and taking final exams. He was almost tearful, as was I, as he talked about not the mandatory obligation to enlist, but about his love for his country and about the way in which a very young adult steps up, assumes astounding responsibility for love of a country and its people. Jakob spoke, as well, about the medical care provided to Syrian citizens, casualties of war, at no cost to the Syrian citizen. “Why do we do this?”, he asks. “Because we are Jews and this is what Jews do.” We then met the young men who serve in the 188, feeling honored that, in spite of training, and in spite of needing to prepare for the growing unrest in Syria, welcomed us.

Conversations was warm, welcoming, and relaxed, as we stood a stone’s throw from their tanks. Each day at the VAMC, I thank a veteran for his or her service. As the day closes, I understand a bit more what it means to be grateful for another’s service. I understand, as well, how it is that the Jewish people continue to survive, thrive, evolve, transform and hold on to our ancient roots and vines.


Barbara and this young man both grew up in NY and both graduated from Queens College (not the same year!)

Rabbi had an interesting time discussing this soldier’s experience in Reform Judaism in Tel Aviv.

Here’s the whole group on volcano Mt. Bental within sight of Lebanon, Syria and Israel.