by Rabbi Michael Schwab
I just returned from the State and Land of Israel this past Thursday after a wonderful trip with a fabulous group of Beth El congregants. Though I have been to Israel many times before, and even lived there for three different years of my life, this trip provided me with experiences I have never had before. On the archaeological side, we were given access to an excavation under the Western Wall plaza not yet open to the public. We walked the paths tread by our ancestors coming to the Temple that, other than archeologists and their teams, have not been tread in thousands of years. We marveled at the continuing excavations of the City of David, which predated the Temple, and walked down steps just unearthed, which follow the ancient pilgrim’s path. On the peoplehood side, we met with brave soldiers in the field giving years of their young life to defend our land, Palestinians and Jewish settlers working together for peace in the West Bank, young yeshivah students in a program that combines Diaspora Jews and Israelis to create stronger bonds, Druze citizens of Israel who are a loyal and fascinating minority group and we met with inspiring educators and social workers that have created a youth village to help immigrant teens succeed against many odds in Israeli society. On the spiritual side, we experienced a magnificent Shabbat in Jerusalem, meaningful time at the Kotel, prayer in a Masorti (Conservative) synagogue and ad hoc minyanim all over the beautiful country.
Each experience we had reinforced for me what a touchstone Israel is to Jewish life. In Israel there is a tangible connection to Jewish history, Jewish peoplehood and Jewish spirituality at every turn. Therefore a visit to Israel is a unique opportunity for growth, exploration, learning and rejuvenation, even around the tough issues that Israel and the people who live in that region face. So make a plan to visit the State of Israel soon! Beth El is going again on a Multi-Generation Family Mission to Israel over winter break. If that is not for you, go with a Jewish organization that you care about. Or go privately if you wish. I can help. Whatever way you go, I promise you won’t regret it! L’shanah Habah B’Yerushalayim!