Shalom U-Vrakhah (Peace and blessing!)
After six extremely intense days of travel, camaraderie, celebration of Israel and Jewish community, and new friendships, I am finally able to post this letter from Israel, along with some photos of our congregational mission. My apologies to those of you who may have been checking for posts from me, only to find none here. Between jet lag, very long days, and lots of things happening, this is my first opportunity to write.
It is late right now in Jerusalem, so in the interests of actually getting this note out to our congregation, I will be brief. Short of living in Israel -with its deep Jewish rhythms and its place at the vital center of Jewish history and destiny- an Israel mission is an unparalleled opportunity to taste Israel. A two week mission cannot begin to capture just what this land and this society (with all its pockmarks and imperfections) means to the Jewish people and to the world. Yet as any of our 2010 participants would confirm, this kind of mission provides a person with the the grand sweep and spiritual depth of Israel and Jewish experience tightly compressed into relatively little time in a powerful way. There is no comparison between reading about David Ben Gurion's stunning declaration of the founding of Israel as a state, and actually hearing a recording of his famous speech in the very place -Independence Hall in Tel Aviv- where it took place -under a portrait of Herzl, founder of modern Zionism- on May 14, 1948. To be here, to be embraced by the Jewish and Israeli experiences that pulsate with life and meaning, is without parallel, even in Albany!
In only five days, we have ridden a roller coaster of Jewish history. We have shared these experiences in the context of new friendships, new encounters with our Jewish identities, and new confrontations with the great questions of life and living that Judaism answers each day for us.
We also made our small but significant contributions to Israel's and the world's environmental health by planting trees in the JNF Kennedy Memorial Forest.
There is so much more to write about, but it is almost midnight. Next time, I'll write about the fun things and celebrations we've been able to be part of!
Shalom Mi Yerushalayim.
Praying for peace from Jerusalem.