Rabbi’s Israeli Visit, part 1

January 19, 2018
By Beth Mordecai
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Rabbi’s Israeli Visit, part 1

Our first day was busy and full of touring the Old City in the rain. We landed about 5:30 in the morning and had a full and exhausting day!  Walking through the wet, slippery and history filled streets of the Old City, we learned together about the many different communities and religions who lived in Jerusalem and the many who still do.

With each careful step, I felt infused with thousands of years of Jewish history. I was stepping on the exact stones people have used for thousands of years.  As we approached the Kotel, we discussed the time from 1948 to 1967 when Jewish people could not live in the Old City or even visit the Kotel.  I felt my emotions well up as I heard a story familiar to me of the 1967 War the announcement that the Kotel had been reclaimed by the Israeli army.  The soldiers blew shofar, prayed and then danced.  They thanked God and rejoiced.  I felt as though I could close my eyes and hears their songs of thanksgiving.  I look forward to returning to you to infuse this sense of joy even more within our own community.

I started our second day by attending minyan at the Conservative Yeshiva.  I studied at the CY as part of Rabbinical school and felt at home returning. I traveled from a familiar and Jewish space to meet with an Episcopal priest who runs the local Jerusalem church headquarters for Episcopalians. We discussed the many different groups that make up Israel’s population.  The priest with whom we were meeting, is an Israeli-Arab-Christian.

He spoke about the unique strengths and challenges of growing a Christian community in Israel.  From there we met with a group called Shorashim or Roots which brings together Palestinians and a Jewish people.  We heard how both sides have experienced pain, hurt and loss and the hands of the “other” side.

The two founders of the group got too tired of the conflict to remain stagnant.  They came together to talk and find coexistence.  They both acknowledged the incredible difficulty of their mission.  They spoke of the challenges of working with both communities and how they cannot expect success by taking radical positions that each of their respective larger communities would reject. This meeting led to extremely interesting and thought provoking conversations with the interfaith participants. I am learning a great deal from and appreciating the other perspectives of the other clergy on this trip.

Friday morning was spent at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.  We learned that the museum was redone a number of years ago to emphasis the resistance and all that Jews and non-Jews did to fight against the nazis.  The museum is extremely well done and very difficult to experience.  From there we went to have lunch and some time on our own in the outdoor market called the shuk. The market was packed with people everywhere getting last minute supplies before Shabbat.  The amount of people and life was an important contrast to Yad Vashem.

As I am about to enter into Shabbat in Jerusalem I am reminded of this week’s Torah portion in which we are commanded by God to teach our children the story of our Exodus from Egypt.  Slavery as well as redemption are integral parts of our story.  Just before the Exodus takes place, God is looking to our future.  God tells us in Exodus 13:14 “…when your child asks you in the future, saying, “What is this?” you shall say to him, “With a mighty hand did the Lord take us out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Even before we leave Egypt, we are commanded to look to a future time, a time of freedom and joy.  This Shabbat, take time to look back and then to the future.

What do you want to teach the next generation? How do you want to help them understand where we have been a a people and where we want to go? May you and your families have a joyous Shabbat remembering the past and celebrating the future.

Shabbat Shalom

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Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal