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.