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Our Congregation Travels to Israel for Her Jubilee Year Celebration

May 09, 1998

This Shabbat we are greeted by a double Torah Portion, called Aharei MotKedoshim. The first portion, Aharei Mot means “after the death” and it refers to what followed “after the death of the two sons of Aaron [Nadab and Abihu] who died” {Leviticus 16:1} when they offered “alien fire which God had not commanded of them” {Leviticus 10:1). The second portion, Kedoshim means “Holiness,” derived from words in the first two verses of the 19th chapter of the Book of Leviticus: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the entire Israelite community and say to them, Kedoshim t’hiyu – you shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy” {Leviticus 19:1-2). The portions mark a transition between moments that devastate and moments that exalt. The titles of the Torah Portions are apt metaphors for our congregation’s recent trip to Israel to celebrate the jubilee year of her existence as a modern State: years filled with despair as well as delight.

There was a time when the Jerusalem Post was called the Palestine Post; when we listened to the Palestine Philharmonic, not the Israel Philharmonic; when appeals for our support were made by the United Palestine Appeal, not the United Jewish Appeal. There was a time, that is to say, when Israel’s existence was a prayerful hope, not a reality. There was always a Jewish presence in the Promised Land, but after the destruction of the First Temple in 585 BCE and then the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, our liturgy, psalms and songs passionately expressed our People’s desire to someday return to the ancient land of our ancestors. The words of Psalm 136 beseech God: “Cause a new light to shine upon Zion, and may we all be worthy soon to enjoy its brightness.” The words of Psalm 137 bemoan our existence as a People in the Diaspora: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to perform rituals, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I remember thee not, if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.” Traditional prayers of petition include the following words: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Who gatherest the dispersed of Thy People Israel.” Every year, Jews throughout the world conclude the Seder with the words L’shanah ha ‘ba-ah beerushalayim – “Next year in Jerusalem!”

On the 5th day of Iyar, 5708, the 14th of May, 1948, almost 1900 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, after countless years of prayer and persecution, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel came into being: “We, members of the Provisional Council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Yisrael and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over EretzYisrael and, by virtue of our natural and historic right, and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Yisrael, to be known as the State of Israel.” I doubt that any Jew old enough to have heard the roll call of the United Nations General Assembly which conferred upon Israel the right granted by the assembly of nations to exist as a nation will ever forget the emotional impact of the vote. It was greeted with thunderous applause, relief, euphoria and gratitude, mingled with tears of joy for a dream so long denied. Even today, to listen to a recording of the roll call is to be transported back in history to a transforming moment for our People. Yet, interestingly enough, for all the passion and pathos found in our liturgy and writings, for all the petitions addressed to God to bring us back to the land of our ancestors, the Declaration of Independence reflects the secularist strain of the politics of that day, presaging the internal tensions found in Israel today. The Declaration omits the name of God, and it was only as a gesture to their pious co-religionists that the non-religious assented to include the words Tzur Yisrael – “Rock of Israel” in the last sentence of the text. The religious were delighted to have it.

In this, the jubilee year of the existence of the modern State of Israel – a State which Harvard economists assured President Truman would not survive the first six months of her independence, given the meager resources of the land, and the hostility and military superiority of the surrounding Arab nations which rejected the United Nations Partition Plan – twenty-one members of our congregation and thirteen of their friends joined 410 other Philadelphians to rejoice with our People in Israel on the fiftieth anniversary of birth of the State of Israel, the first Jewish commonwealth since the destruction and dispersion more than 1,900 years ago. It was a ten-day journey that we will always remember and cherish. We will speak of it to our children and grandchildren, and future generations of our families will say of us, “S/he was there for Israel’s Jubilee Celebration.”

Even now, eight days removed from Israel, I still struggle to find words to define the trip for myself. I do not think that I am alone in this regard. For many, it was their first time in Israel; for some of us, our fifth or eighth or tenth time; for all of us, an unbelievably powerful, inspiring and unforgettable journey. In Israel, even the stones speak: they are the sites of Biblical cities, shrines, miracles and battles, and they are the places spoken of in Torah text and Talmudic lore. They are the stones which mark skirmishes in the War of Independence and pitched battles in the Six Day War. Stones are in a walkway in the British detention center at Atlit where Jews fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust, having made their way to Israel on illegal ships running British blockades in violation of the White Paper of 1939, were interred like sheep in holding pens. They are the stones in trenches on Ammunition Hill, where Israeli soldiers engaged in vicious hand-to-hand fighting with the Jordanians, and from where they entered the Old City of Jerusalem in the waning hours of June 7, 1967. They are the stones of the Western Wall, the remnant of the Second Temple in Jerusalem which stands closest to the site of the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the ancient Temple, stones watered by tears of Jews who stand before it praying, crying, silent, and reverent.

We landed in Israel on Yom HaShoa – Holocaust Memorial Day. From the airport we went immediately to Latrun, site of fierce fighting during the 1948 War of Independence. It stands at an historic and strategic crossroad where the ancient road from Jerusalem to Ramleh and Jaffa meets the road leading from Gaza and Ashkelon. On a slope facing the fortress is a large French Trappist monastery. This will not be the first time that religion and politics, beliefs and battles, will intersect. Sirens sound throughout Israel, and the entire country pauses to remember those who were murdered because the world kept silent. I think of the words of poet Nelly Sachs in a poem entitled If The Prophets Broke In from her collection O The Chimneys: “If the prophets stood up in the night of mankind like lovers who seek the heart of the beloved, Night of mankind, would you have a heart to offer?”

We have flown for ten hours, and half an hour after landing we are sitting in an open-air plaza in the fortress at Latrun listening to a survivor of the Holocaust tell us about his life on the run and in the camps. It is hot and we are tired, and it does not matter. He tells us about escaping from the camps and hiding, and being found and jailed by the Gestapo. He tells us how he and his brother somehow managed to stay together through it all: how they avoided the ovens, survived backbreaking labor, cared for each other, stumbled out of pits and into forests, only to be found and jailed again. He and his brother stand before a Soviet officer who intuits who they are: “Do you say a blessing before you eat bread?” he asks them at gunpoint. “No,” they say, no blessing. Later, the same question, but now they tell the officer that they say a blessing. “Say it,” they are commanded. They comply. They say the motzi. The Soviet officer tells them that he too is Jewish. They are free again. We are hot, tired and hungry, and it does not matter. He and his brother make their way to Israel. He is here. We are here. It is hot, and we are tired and in awe.

Later that day we make aliyah – we ascend to Jerusalem, climbing her slopes in weaving patterns. This is my seventh trip to Israel and I know Jerusalem well. The ascent is filled with anticipation for me. At each curve I strain to see its outlying neighborhoods that will tell us that our arrival in the City of David is immanent. I feel a supreme happiness, a sense of coming home that I cannot explain to anyone. I only know that Jerusalem captured my soul when I lived there 27 years ago. I have returned to rediscover her, and myself as well. Our bus stops at a vantage point that overlooks the Old City and I am speechless. I remember this site. I have seen it in books and postcards, on television and documentaries; and now, not surprisingly, I am moved beyond words and tears cloud my vision. Yet, somehow, everything becomes clearer, and my sense of pride in being a Jew floods through me like water moving over sacred land. I feel blessed.

I go to bed that night, but I don’t get much sleep. My windows are wide open to let in the cool night air of Jerusalem, and I awaken with three hours of rest and feel refreshed. Today, day two, we visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Archival Center, which obtains its name from a verse in the Book of Isaiah, proving that the ancient prophets speak to us today: “[Thus saith the Lord] I will give them within My house and upon its walls yad vashem – a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting memorial that shall not be cut off” {Isaiah 56:5}. We walk through the adjacent Children’s Memorial, a seemingly unending series of mirrors which reflect and refract a single candle whose images are flaming kaddishes for the children who perished in the Holocaust. Every ten seconds the name of a child is recited, as is the country from which he or she came. There are so many children’s names that a name is repeated only once every two years and three weeks. On one occasion, Tzvi, our guide, took a small group of survivors of the Holocaust to Yad Vashem, and he told us that as they walked through the museum it seemed as if their faces were frozen…like stone. Then they walked into the Children’s Memorial and at that instant a woman in the group heard the recitation of her brother’s name. She crumbled to the ground and sat there, weeping. How long had it been since she had cried for him or herself’? A name is repeated every two years and three weeks. Ten seconds either way, and she would not have heard his name. We hear the story and are stunned. It will not be the first time that silence will be an appropriate response to what we see or hear.

We go to the nearby military cemetery and pause at the graves of men and women who died defending the State of Israel: in wars, on border patrols, in fire-fights with the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas. Most were in their twenties when they died. Many would have been grandfathers today. We stop at the graves of Herzl and Golda and Yitzchak: heroes and heroines who are known throughout the world by one name, each one of them a tzur Yisrael – a rock of Israel. We say kaddish where Rabin is interred. There are more stones placed on his grave than any of the other leaders combined, a poignant reminder of how sorely he is missed, and how the bullets that assassinated him are still embedded in Israel.

Day three. Shabbat. Our internal clocks are off cycle. We can barely recall what day we landed or what we did when we first arrived. We are at sensory overload. We need the Day of Rest to slow things down. Some of us stay in Jerusalem, others travel to Tel Aviv {I spend the day there visiting with my family whom I last saw at my cousin’s wedding in Israel in 1994}, most go to Masada, the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. We find one another at Havdalah in Jerusalem and dine at one of the best restaurants the city has to offer. Afterwards, I join friends for drinks on the terrace at the King David Hotel, overlooking the walls of the Old City. Lights illumine the stones, and shadows play over their surface. It is imposing even from this distance. We talk, we laugh, and our gaze is always directed back to the ancient walls built in 1541 by a Turkish military architect: the walls of a city which endured twenty ruinous sieges, two intervals of complete destruction, eighteen reconstructions, and at least eleven transitions from one religion to another. We sit on the terrace of the King David Hotel and cannot believe what our eyes behold. Conversation gives way to silence, gives way to discussion, gives way to laughter, and gives way to silence. We sit there shaking our heads at the wonder of it all.

Day four, and by now our bodies are accustomed to the schedule: awake at six, breakfast at seven, and on the road until dinnertime. We’re on our way to Ashdod and Ashkelon, some 35 miles south of Tel Aviv. We’re on our way, and we cannot yet appreciate the significance of how powerful this day will be. It will be a magnificent opportunity to see how the largesse of American Jews helps save and shape lives. In Ashdod we visit a school for high school students that is supported by the Joint Distribution Committee. Its ‘New Educational Environment Program’ is designed to help give kids a boost up the educational ladder by providing them with small-group study programs and hands-on teachers who are parents and guidance counselors rolled into one. We sit in on classes and talk to the students. They are vibrant and vocal. They tell us how much this educational opportunity means to them, and they are not saying it to impress us. You can see it on their faces! They are grateful for the chance to learn and for the opportunity to merge into a society and economy that is on the cutting edge of technology. They want to enter the army, and they speak about becoming engineers and computer programmers. In their classrooms you meet the next generation of Israelis, and you sense that the vitality of the country sits before you. They are like kids the world over. They are unlike any kids that I have met before.

Later that day we arrive at Netivot, Philadelphia’s Partnership 2000 region. This becomes one of the high points of the trip. We meet Jews who left Ethiopia and came to Israel, only it’s never that simple. They left their homes and their villages, leaving behind one culture and society and in coming to Israel leapt into a technological era for which they were thoroughly unprepared. Able to walk hundreds of miles without a compass in Ethiopia, they have no sense of direction upon arriving in Israel. It’s like being dropped into another galaxy. So they are absorbed into educational programs designed to bring them swiftly up to speed, while not sacrificing their sense of who they are and the rich identity that they brought with them. Their skin is the color of chocolate, and their smiles are the warmth of the sun. We see children at arts and crafts tables, and adults who have made beautifully colored dresses, and baskets woven in threads of light blue, blazing yellow, and green the color of vibrant fields and soft meadows. Young children come up to us and shyly hand us something that they have made for us with crayon on paper: the word Shalom written in Hebrew, the number ’50’ floating alongside it, and the Israeli flag on the page, anchoring it, centering it, ever-present, like a heartbeat.

From the clubhouse in Netivot we are taken to a huge dirt field. Beyond the expanse of dirt is a small forest of trees: a splash of green bordering a brown expanse of earth. Furrows have been dug into the earth in straight lines, and every twenty feet or so a small tree waits to be planted. It is a metaphor too good to be true, but in Israel miracles and metaphors abound. Each of us – every one of the Philadelphia Mission participants, 12 busloads full – finds a furrow labeled with his or her bus number, claims a small container filled with dirt, unwraps the plastic that holds the seedling, and gently places the future into the earth. This is kadosh, a sanctified moment. It is more powerful and persuasive than I could have ever imagined. The day continues with a cultural food festival, and singing and dancing into the night. Ya’akov, our bus driver, comes up to me during the festivities and points to the children and youth, the former Ethiopian Jews, and says with pride, “This is the new Israel.” It seems to me that a torch is being passed. We are exhausted. We are exhilarated. We don’t know what day it is. We don’t care. We are here. It is enough.

Day five arrives. We make our way to Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, just outside the walls of the Old City. This is the battleground from which Israeli paratroopers began their drive to reunite the city in 1967. The site is dedicated to all those who fell in the battle for Jerusalem. The price was steep. Aharei Mot, after death in the trenches and by bunkers, Kedoshim, the drive to reunite the holy places within the Old City under Israeli sovereignty. As you enter the museum on Ammunition Hill, the first thing that greets your eyes are photographs of four young Israeli soldiers who died in the battle for Jerusalem. Pictures forever young, accompanied by a two-paragraph biography in Hebrew and English, and to the right of each photograph is a copy of a letter or a poem that the young man wrote while in high school, or on the eve of battle. Their families asked the government not to place military awards for valor next to the pictures of their sons, but something that he had written that captured his spirit. On the stone walls on Ammunition Hill, there is softness. I look at their ages when they died: 21, 21, 24 and 31. The oldest of the four was married and left behind a wife and two year old daughter. His son was born three months after he died. Aharei Mot, Kedoshim.

That evening {we can no longer recall what day it is} we walk through the Western Wall Tunnel, the recently uncovered extension of the wall built by King Herod, our own Jewish Pharaoh, who craved power, abused his own people, and catered to the whims of Rome. Around the year 30 BCE, Herod built a magnificent palace complex and fortress atop a virtually inaccessible desert plateau mountain called Masada. Appointed King of Judea by the Romans in 37 BCE, he rebuilt Jerusalem and designed a temple area that dwarfed the original Temple of Solomon: a city with fortress, towers and aqueducts, a gem of such beauty and grandeur that it is said when the Romans conquered Jerusalem, they paused to consider whether or not to put the Temple to the torch, so stunning was it to gaze upon. It is Jerusalem that defines Herod’s brilliance and madness, and we find ourselves walking underground for almost a quarter of a mile along the extension of the Western Wall. Slabs of smooth rock, towering over us, attest to the labor that created this masterful structure: a 60 ton {!} slab of rock, and sitting above it, perfectly positioned, another huge slab, and so too to either side. I occasionally pause to pray or meditate along the narrow passageways, my hands touching the cool stone. I am moved more at this site than I have been at the public Western Wall aboveground. There is a stillness here that soothes. It momentarily becomes private space, a personal place for meditation. We enter a cistern and are told to look above us: we see a steel plate which has been placed in a stone opening over our heads. It has been put there by the Israeli government to protect archeologists and now, presumably, us as well from stones flung in anger by Muslim residents who used to lower buckets to obtain water for their homes and are now incensed that the extension of the Wall has been breached, albeit in the Jewish Quarter. The stones speak, and sometimes they whistle.

Day six brings us to Herod’s Caesarea, headquarters of the Roman legions that suppressed the Jewish revolt in 66 CE, and from there to Zichron Ya ‘akov and its Carmel Winery for a much-needed but brief respite from our breakneck pace. From there, the taste of wine still on our tongues, we travel to Atlit where we learn of bitter experiences at this detention camp where clandestine immigrants were incarcerated by British Mandate authorities before 1948. Having stumbled off boats onto the shores of the Promised Land, the immigrants were caught, loaded onto lorries or trains, and brought to this barren outpost. They were deloused and placed in barracks: trains, tracks, delousing and barracks must have been very painful reminders to them of the Holocaust. In the Promised Land, the only promise courtesy of the British was confinement, and the sight of soldiers with side arms and rifles ringing the camp.

We proceed to the Kinneret and spend the night at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar. The contrast between Atlit and Ginosar is night and day: barbed wire rolled into beauty. It is the eve of Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day and we arrive minutes before the memorial service. Sirens sound throughout Israel. Wherever people are, they stop what they are doing and stand at attention. Seventeen torches are lined up in front of the plaza adjacent to the dining hall. Israeli flags flutter in the breeze. Readers intone words of prayer, poems and songs which pay homage to life, service and dedication. Names are read: the names of children of the kibbutz who fell in the Six Day War and the War in Lebanon, and in skirmishes at points of infiltration over the border, and as each name is recited the father or mother, sister or brother, wife or children of the fallen soldier come up to light the torch. We are emotionally drained. I marvel at the strength and resilience of our People in the face of war every decade since the Declaration of Independence, and now, fading prospects for peace.

Day seven dawns. It is Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day for Israel’s soldiers who have fallen in battle. Significantly, we travel to the Golan Heights, locale of some of the most bitter fighting in the Six Day War. We stand on a former Syrian position which overlooks the rich, fertile Hula Valley. Our People were in a shooting gallery as they tilled the fields below, or tried to live normal lives on kibbutzim. The Syrians had no respect for Jewish life then; what leads us to believe they will value it more now? I stand at the site of this former Syrian post, and I admit to myself that I do not believe that mass Arab hatred of Israel will soon end. I also acknowledge that it is Israel’s military force and preparedness that makes this jubilee possible. We come off the Golan onto its flanks where all 12 busloads of Philadelphians are joined by Israeli children and youth at a memorial service. Sirens sound throughout the land, bringing the country to a standstill. Nothing moves, save for memories that sweep the pages of history. Zachor v’Shmor – “Remember and observe” the Torah tells us. Silently, we do. An officer who served in the IDF during the Six Day War sweeps his hand toward the gentle valley behind him and tells us that it was here that his brother, a tank commander, died at the hands of Syrian commandos when he came to the aid of Israeli soldiers trapped in their personnel carrier. He tells us that in Israel there are no unknown soldiers. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone…I think to myself that Israel is a tapestry made of threads that are woven through the peoples’ hearts and sinews, binding them together, one to the other.

Day eight. The entire day is preamble to our journey from Tel Aviv back to Jerusalem to be present at Israel’s gala celebration called ‘Jubilee Bells – Together with Pride, Together in Hope.’ In Tel Aviv we see an impressive air show and naval review, and mid-afternoon we gather on Rothschild Boulevard for a cultural fair, food bazaar and Israeli dancing, and to hear the historic moment of the proclamation of the birth of the Jewish State through a recording of the voice of David ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. Today is a release from the pent up emotions of Yom HaZikaron. All week we have seen small Israeli flags fluttering in the breeze from car antennas and on apartment balconies. Today we see young Israelis dancing with wild abandon to a staccato beat outside a beachfront bar: it’s high speed dance aerobics, with arms and legs flailing in all directions, sweat pouring off their bodies, as if every moment is precious.

Late that afternoon our bus arrives in Jerusalem. Today is Yom HaAtzmaut – Independence Day. The Palestinians have declared it to be their own holocaust: it is undoubtedly one of the most overused, misapplied words in the English language. As we make our way toward the stadium we see Israeli soldiers standing in small clusters fifteen or twenty feet apart all along the sloping curve that leads us to the entrance: high caliber weapons are slung over their shoulders – Galil assault rifles and Uzis – gun clips tucked into belts for instant access, sharpshooters on nearby rooftops. The assembled 12,000 Israelis and Americans will be addressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Vice President of the United States Al Gore. Gore sets the tone for the evening with his opening words: “Ani mitz’tayare aval anee lo m’dabare Ivreet” – “I am sorry, but I do not speak Hebrew.” His address is eloquent and moving, and toward the end he recites the words of the Sheh’heh’chiyanu. The artistic program commences with a violinist playing the theme from the movie Schindler’s List, and poems are read from a collection entitled “Smoke and Dust” dedicated to the Jews of Salonica who perished in the death camps. Then come the first of multiple breathtaking scenes: dancers in blue and white move to a jazz beat as the Star of David appears on the stage, and from its center a singer rises to perform HaTikva. It is not the first time tonight that our eyes will fill with tears. Another scene dramatizes the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The stage is a cornucopia of color, as one scene merges seamlessly into the next: waves of dancers depicting immigrants make way for immigrant soldiers in the IDF who speak of their commitment to the country. A humorous sketch gives way to a presentation dedicated to the children of Israel, the generation of the future who, in fifty years, will celebrate the second jubilee, and my prayer is that my children and grandchildren will be there to celebrate with them. The stage is then flooded with IDF troops who, in dramatic moments dedicated to all Israeli wars, sing Tov Yihiyeh, Mavtiach Lach – “Things will get better, I promise you,” accompanied by an elegy for the fallen soldiers. Later, three groups, singing and dancing, representing Jews, Christians and Muslims, carry a large scale replica of Jerusalem onto the stage. Each group, colorfully attired, carries a third of the city which they then combine into a reunited entity. The symbolism is striking and profound. The song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – “Jerusalem of Gold” floods the stage to capture our souls, followed by children who stroll hand-in‑hand to the melody of Shir La ‘Shalom – “Song For Peace.”

Finally, this: at the memorial service that we attended at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar on erev Yom Ha’Zikaron, a poem entitled “Children of the Winter of ’73” was read. That was the year of the Yom Kippur War. The poem captures for me, as I think it did for all of us, the pain and the pride, the passion and the resolve, the weariness of war and the fervent desire for peace that the people in Israel have for themselves and the next generation. The “Children of the Winter of ’73” are now twenty-five years of age. They are already military veterans and they carry Israel’s hopes and dreams for shalom:

“We are the children of the Winter of ’73.

You dreamt us first at dawn at the end of the battles.

You were tired men who thanked their good luck.
You were worried young women and you wanted so much to love.

And when you conceived us with love in the Winter of ’73

you wanted to fill your bodies with what the war had taken.

When we were born, the country was wounded and sad.
You looked at us, hugged us, and tried to find consolation.
When we were born, the elders blessed us with tears in their eyes,
`These children, let it be that they won’t go to the army.’
And your faces in the old photos prove that you spoke from the heart
when you promised to do everything for us to change enemy to friend.

You promised a dove, an olive branch.
You promised peace at home.
You promised Spring and blossoms.
You promised to keep promises.

We are the children of the Winter of ’73.

We’ve grown, now we are in the army,

with a weapon and a helmet on our heads.

We too know how to make love,

to laugh and we know how to cry.

We too are men.

We too are women.

We too dream babies, and therefore we will not pressure you,
we will not demand, nor will we threaten.

When we were small, you said that promises needed to be kept.
If you need strength, we shall give it and will not hold back.
We just wanted to whisper that we are children
of that Winter of ’73.”

We stand in awe when we think about the journey we took, and for the land and our People. I do not believe that any of us will ever look at photographs or film of Jerusalem without gazing closely to see if we walked along ‘that’ street, stood by ‘that’ wall, and wept in ‘that’ place. Nor will be ever again think about Israel without reflecting upon this time in our lives when we were blessed to have been there: to have stood among our People on Ben Yehudah Street or on Dizengoff; to have surveyed the land from the heights of the Golan; to have felt the water of the Mediterranean, or the heat blowing across the Dead Sea and upon Masada; to have stood in reverential silence at the Western Wall and in Yad Vashem. To be in Israel at any time is a blessing. To have been in Israel during the week of her Jubilee Celebration – over Yom HaShoa, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut – will fill the rest of our lives with sweet memories and the resolution to return again, and again and again. Twenty-one members of our congregation and thirteen of their friends went to Israel to celebrate her jubilee year. For every place that we stood together, there are thirty-four stories. We have come home to tell them.

Rabbi Elliot J. Holin