What happened on the Israel trip:
Every day or so, a new adventure in Israel was sent back from the group so we could “be there with them”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the morning, we visited the Save a Child’s Heart in Holan Israel.
The visit to Save A Child’s Heart moved all of our hearts! The children were warm and receptive and helped the visitors (us!) feel comfortable. The work they do repairing the hearts of children from around the world inspired us.
It’s amazing work they (Save A Heart) are doing, helping these beautiful children from around the world. It was sheer joy to play with the children. It is hard to believe that many are just weeks out from their open heart surgery.
I was lucky enough to experience this amazing organization. Not only are the children full of energy and positivity but so are the volunteers. Although I didn’t spend too much time at this home, I definitely left with a message to spread and a piece from the children I spent time with.
Later we hiked in the Lotem Farm and trails which have been set up for handicapped persons. Then after a picnic lunch we crushed grapes with our feet to begin the wine making process.
Here’s our first view of the Galilee from our bus.
We later rafted on the Jordan River. Here’s Jim, Vivian, Marty and Barbara negotiating the “rough” waters and dodging tree branches and boatloads of Yeshiva girls in other rafts.
Grayson after Havdalah:
Today we first visited Independence Hall outside of which Nat enjoyed a statue of the Mayor of Tel Aviv’s horse.
Then we visited the Ayalon Institute where bullets were manufactured during the war of independence.
We see Julia helping our guide Moshe explain the map of Israel and our guide explaining the making of bullets.
We’re now getting ready for our first Shabbat in Israel.
Click on the image to hear the Rabbi’s message.
The forty some odd pilgrims from CBHT finally made it to Israel today after a long trip through 7 time zones. We met our guides and proceeded to Old Jaffa where we sang Shehecheyanu as the sun set over the Mediterranean. Then it was off to a Mediterranean restaurant for dinner.
Dagny and our guide Moshe acting out the map of Israel.