Coming back from Israel is always bittersweet.
I love returning to my family. I can't wait to see and hold each of them. I am glad to return, to be here where (most....) of my family is.
But it is always jarring to me to hear English all around. To see signs in English and not Hebrew. To look around and feel reasonably sure that I'm back in the minority. To see children in baseball caps instead of kippot. To not feel a compulsion to give any young soldier a motherly kiss on the forehead (not that I saw so many soldiers in O'Hare, though). Coming back from Israel...even though this is definitely my home, I always have a hard time saying that I'm going home when I leave Israel. A piece of me is always there, my home away from home, my heart-land.
"Wherever I go, I am going to the land of Israel." (Rebbe Nachman)
I love introducing people to this land I love so much. To see through their eyes the sights and sounds and smells, to taste anew each visit the felafel, halva, even bamba (which I'm not such a fan of, sorry Israeli friends)...as I pointed out to our group, even Coke tastes different here. The very air is different.
And I can't wait to go back.
(More Israel posts coming up with pictures and stories....stay tuned! Same blogtime, same blogchannel!)
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Coming back from Israel is always bittersweet.
Monday, March 24, 2008
It sure was a hot one today....
We started with an excellent discussion/lecture with Professor Reuven Hazan. He was interesting and engaging, he talked about Israel's pollitical situation today and the group was really riveted.
Then we headed for the bus...as I said beofre, we were a little delayed by Cheney's motorcade and then we were off...heading down south to the Dead Sea and Masada.
Remember, as I said yesterday, we're having a serious heatwave here. And so we went to the desert to REALLY feel the heat!:)
We got to the Dead Sea and stopped at the Hod Hotel to use their beach and changing space. We went down to the water and had a great time floating around and experiencing this marvel. Some of the kids also swam in the pool and enjoyed the sunbathing on the beach too. We had a nice lunch and then headed off to Masada, refreshed from the healing waters of the Dead Sea....
We didn't have the time to tour Masada (as I keep saying to the group - there's always more to see, always something that will keep for the next visit!) but we did what we came for - celebrated TEN Bnai Mitzvah! It was hot and sticky and crowded but it was pretty amazing to watch 9 kids and 1 adult read Torah together in Israel. It took 18 aliyot! That's a lot of Torah. It was really fantastic.
My brother was there too - he played guitar for the service and it was great to see him. (And yes mom, I gave him the stuff I was supposed to give him!)
We headed back down just before the last cable car and that was my goodbye to the group. They are heading to my favorite part of the country, the North (well, I like Jerusalem too. Perhaps, like the Torah portions, they're ALL my favorites!) and will be in Tiberias, the Golan (jeep riding and ziplining!), Tsfat and more...then Tel Aviv and then back to Chicago. I'm sure they'll have a great time (and I hear its going to cool off!!!).
I went back to Jerusalem, had dinner at my favorite restaurant - the Village Green - and then headed to the airport where I now sit, waiting for my flight. (No more motorcades, Dick left before I did.)
I could get used to this...being a regular visitor to Israel. It certainly does feel like home away from home. I'm looking forward to seeing my family, though, and catching up on life....oh wait, I'm off to quilting retreat next week....ack! Still, it's all good.
See you on the far side!
Vice President Cheney is here in Jerusalem too! On our way back into Jerusalem, as we were driving by the Knesset building, we had to stop for his motorcade. He stayed at the King David Hotel which is down the street from ours. When we got back to King David Street we ran into the motorcade AGAIN!
And in the morning today (Monday) we had trouble once more as one of our busses got stuck behind the motorrcade and ended up 45 minutes late! Ah...the joys of trevelling in Israel when it's the center of the world....
Our morning on Sunday was spent at Yad Vashem. First we went to the Childrens Memorial and the Janus Korszchak statue and memorial. The multitude of lights representing all the children murdered glow with such intensity...the names and ages and countries are read with such sadness....the photographs that welcome us into the memorial, of the children with such searching eyes....
Our children left with the youth counselors while the rest of us went into the museum. (Children under 10 not allowed in the museum.)
I was just here six weeks ago and I went to Yad Vashem. I think that no trip, even seasoned travellers, should skip this place. I learned and saw different things and different stories than I have before. One story, about a Bosnian Muslim family who saved Jews...and then later, when things were bad in Bosnia, came to Israel. One of their children converted to Judaism and now a grandchild serves in the Israeli army. Incredible. So many stories to tell, so many we don't know at all...
After a quick lunch, we conclided our visit to Yad Vashem with a walk through the Valley of the Communities. Each family took a spool of ribbon and went to find withinthe valley the name or area from which their family comes. Then they unspooled the ribbon from their town back out into the main section. All those ribbons came together and were held by the children. Such a beautiful site - all those colorful ribbons, all those sweet children...our past and our future coming together to remind us WHY we come to Yad Vashem - so that we remember the past and build our future.
Then we headed down to Moshav Shafir, about an hour south and west to visit our Federation Partnership 2000 region, a region with which we have a pretty direct connection - exchanges of people and volunteers, gifts and assistance...it's a really amazing and real partnership.
Israel is experiencing a heat wave! It was in the nineties and the heat is intense - way more than usual in March. This made our outdoor project a little uncomfortable but still pretty great - we helped to create a bike path using hoes and picks. We also heard a wonderful story from a woman who had been a teenager during the War of Independence - an experience in that very spot in Shafir. (More on this another day - it deserves a whole post!) And we met the Gerge Washington Carver of pomegranates - a man who has invented many uses for this famous fruit.
We did our work with some of the kids frpm Shafir and we also shared a pizza dinner with them. (Typical Israeli pizza toppings - corn, tuna, olive, anchovy!)
We headed back to Jerusalem where some of us headed out to enjoy the last hurrah of Shushan Purim....still great and crazy and fun!
And tomorrow....off to the south!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Even though Shabbat is a day of rest, we had some optional activites for our group. In the morning about 40 of us went to Rehovot to the bullet factory in Har haKibbutzim. This was a secret underground factory that made bullets for the Haganah for three years before 1948. It was a really amazing story and a great museum. It always boggles my mind how young these people were who created the State. The workers in this bullet factory were as young as 16. We have in our group a 16-year-old young man and I couldn't help but look at him and imagine him there, making bullets and working in furtive secrecy to create bullets for the resistance.
We returned to Jerusalem and had a lovely lunch and then met in the afternoon for the Tourgame (also optional!)....an educational scavenger hunt through the Old City - it was awesome. I have been in the Old City many times but even I loved it! We were all over the Jewish Quarter and learned a lot about all the places and history. We had to search for sights, answer questions and follow a map through the route. It was really great - I would definitely do it again!
Then Shabbat was about to draw to a close.... I headed up to the Tayelet to join three Am Shalom families who were celebrating their Bnot Mitzvah with Rabbi Steve. The view was breathtaking and the closeness of the Temple Mount was amazing. I slipped in at the end and shared a really magical and spiritual experience with these families.
We went back into Jerusalem and our whole group (including the Bnai Mitzvah families) joined together on the patio of the David Citadel hotel, overlooking the almost full moon over the Old City. The view was amazing and the atmosphere incredible. To share Havdalah in such a space...words cannot describe.
We were on our own for dinner and the group split up. Ben Yehuda Street was a zoo! Purim is still in full-swing and we were overwhelmed by the number of people out and about, the noise, the music, the costumes... and it just keeps going and going....
Tomorrow, Yad Vashem.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This day was spent in wonderful celebration of Jerusalem. We went through the amazing Southern Wall excavation site. This is the really incredible archaeological exporation of the southwest corner and southern wall of the Temple Mount.
I'm not sure I can even express in words how I feel (especially not while typing on my bberry - I think this may have to be a more thorough exposition when I get home, but...) about this site. It is truly breathtaking to me that we have dug up and learned so much about the Temple Mount. What boggles my mind though (here's where expression gets tricky) is how we treat this part of the Kotel (wall) as a historical site whereas the "Western Wall" usually called The Kotel is viewed as a religious site. It's the same wall! Yes I know there is historical significnce to the only piece of the temple mount that we have had access to for hundreds of years but why is that "the real Wall" and the other merely a museum piece? More on this later.
After the Southern Wall site we visited the Kotel Plaza and had a chance to say our own prayers and place written prayers in the cracks of the wall.
Then we explored the Jewish quarter, spent a little time shopping in the Cardo, and had a great felafel lunch in the Old City.
For the afternoon most of our group rested and relaxed by the pool....a few of us headed to Mahane Yehuda market for a little pre-Shabbat experience and shopping. It's still Purim so things were even more festive than usual. We bought fruit and nuts and hamantaschen and of course, my favorite, rugelach from Marzipan Bakery. On the way home we walked through the Ben Yehuda midrachov (pedestian mall) and had smushy yogurt. A little rest and then onto Shabbat....
(I'm tired so more tomorrow on Shabbat!)
Friday, March 21, 2008
We arrived in Israel in a beautiful sunny morning. After a brief stop at the tank museum in Latrun, we had a beautiful brunch at Pinat Shorashim, on the grounds of Kibbutz Gezer. Pinat Shorashim is an educational garden - simply beautiful - and the site of Israel's first baseball field.
Then we headed to Beit Guvrin for "dig for a day." Archaeological Seminars was founded by Bernie and Fran Alpert, of Highland Park, IL, as a chance for regular people to really experience archaeology in Israel. Everyone in our group really enjoyed digging in the caves and finding shards of pottery.
Then we went "spelunking" through some unexcavated caves. The hardy souls who squeezed themselves through these honeycomb caves had a great time exploring. (And getting very dirty in the process!)
Then we headed to Jerusalem and sopped at Montefiore's Windmill to overlook the Old City and say Shehecheyanu - the blessing for special moments.
Personally - this spot is very significant because it is the site where my husband proposed to me!!! Overlooking our favorite city....it is probably my favorite spot in the world. I can't wait to stand there someday with my children and God willing my grandchildren, as so many in our group did.
We checked into our hotel and cleaned up a bit before dinner and a little Purim celebrating, followed by a trip to the Western Wall Tunnels, the excavation of the Temple Mount along the Western Wall (Kotel). Everyone was exhausted and most headed to bed.
I went over (with Rabbi Steve) to the Ben Yehuda area to check out some of the Puriim festivities (more on Sunday, since we are in Jerusalem) and have frozen yogurt. We ran into my brother in his goofy costume. In true Israeli fashion, he is celebrating Purim all over - tonight here in Yerushalayim, tomorrow in Tel Aviv and then back to his kibbutz.
It is so awesome to see all the costumes and festivities on the street and know that it is for OUR holiday OUR celebration! It is Purim, a holiday celebrating Jewish preservation and resilience, that is being observed with such glee and gaiety! - direct you to an interesting comment on this topic from Frume Sarah on Tuesday
...and then finally to bed! Whew! What a day!
A long and wonderful introduction to our trip!!!!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
another book of Torah,
God tells what to do.
is Mo's courseload now.
First, burnt offerings:
animals completely burned
by the holy priests.
Next, meal offerings:
Cakes of flour and oil,
part to burn by priests.
to demonstrate gratitude
are detailed next.
Then, sin offerings
if you omitted info,
if you touched unclean,
or if you swore oath
and then forgot about it.
Also guilt offerings:
lying or robbing also
make you do this one.
God is forgiving
when expiation is made
and it's all okay!
It's Shabbat Zachor
Zachor means "to remember"
It precedes Purim.
The reading is hard,
we remember Amalek
how he attacked us.
It fits with Purim
we remember times of pain
We celebrate now
but we know the world isn't
perfect just quite yet.
Chag Purim Sameach!
and Shabbat Shalom!