2014 Israel Pilgrimage Photos

2014 Israel Pilgrimage

Report #11 - The Final One

June 22, 2014 - The Final One: Modi'in, a new place and an Amichai story

For our final day in Israel we had a special experience planned. Congregation Yozma in the growing Israeli city of Modi'in, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, has a fabulous program with a local home for developmentally challenged children and young adults. They share Shabbat weekly with them, have a tutoring program for them (and others in the community), and work with them and prepare them for bar and bat mitzvah, which the children experience at the Kotel followed by a party at Yozma. There is a great deal of peer-to-peer teaching and sharing, and because of the yozma, the initiative of a lay leader, Yuval Newman, their leadership and their rabbinic team of Kineret Shiryon and Nir Barkin, and Executive Director Eyal Ronder, they have created a wonderful model for Reform Jewish living in Israel.

Read more: Report #11 - The Final One

Report #10 - Holy Places

June 21, 2014 - Holy Places and the Holiest Place

I have often written about Shabbat in Jerusalem, that day of peace and tranquility in a city better known for other things. There is a magical calm when you begin walking through the city on the way to services, with few if any cars on the streets, a cool, calm air, the scent of pine unmingled with car exhaust, and a general sense of the experience of a true day of holiness and rest. I always lead a group on an exploration of Shabbat morning services at various synagogues of many different Jewish ethnic traditions, and it is always an interesting and unique experience. Nowhere else on earth can you participate in Shabbat services using the authentic melodies and traditional prayerbooks and ritual practices of Jews from literally hundreds of different countries, and a number of beautiful and subtly varying cultures.

Read more: Report #10 - Holy Places

Report #9 - Yad Vashem & Shabbat

June 20, 2014 - Yad Vashem, Machanei Yehudah, and Shabbat in the Train Station and at Kol Haneshama

It may be impossible for an American who has not been to Israel to grasp the importance of the Shoah, the Holocaust, to the Israeli psyche. While Holocaust education has made huge strides in America, in Israel it means something entirely more immediate and real. Israelis grow up knowing not only the importance of the destruction of European Jewry, but also understanding fully that the intention of the Nazis during World War II, and the Arab armies afterwards, was the genocidal annihilation of the Jewish population of Israel. This was not a theoretical danger but a very real one. And most Israelis lost close relatives, and most of their extended families, to the Nazis.

When the 2-minute long siren goes off on Yom HaShoah across the whole of Israel there is no doubt that Israelis feel the relevance of the Holocaust more profoundly than their American cousins do.

Read more: Report #9 - Yad Vashem & Shabbat

Report #8 - Masada

June 19, 2014 - Masada

It had been nine years since I last climbed up the Snake Path on Masada, and I recalled it as a short, sharp hike in hot weather. I was younger then, and had my original right hip, but otherwise today I felt ready to tackle this historic route. I encouraged the others in our pilgrimage group by telling them that while it wasn't a good choice for everyone, it was a remarkable experience for anyone who could manage it, walking in the sandal prints of the last Jewish fighters of the 2nd Temple period. And it wasn't a long hike by our Tucson Wandering Jews' standards.

And so this morning about half of our group took the ancient Jewish trail up to the desert mountain fortress, final stronghold of the Zealots during the Great Revolt against the Romans. Masada's capture in the year 73 CE ended the last resistance to the Roman Empire in Judea, and the story as written by the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius is well known to most Hebrew School children. After nearly three years of spirited resistance, according to the record he left, the defenders under the heroic Eleazar ben Yair chose to commit mass suicide rather than submit to Roman slavery. The historicity of this account has been questioned by many over the years, for Josephus was a brilliant writer but was known to color the facts to make them more dramatic and more favorable to his patrons and to his people. When the great Israeli archeologist Yigal Yadin excavated Masada in the 1960's his findings justified a fair amount of Josephus' account, but Yadin was not without his biases as well and his own interpretations have been subject to review.

Read more: Report #8 - Masada

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