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To Israel with Love

05/18/2022 09:42:30 PM

May18

I will never forget my first trip to Israel - December 1992.  It started before I even arrived.  It was midday in Israel, the sun was bright, shining against the water, no clouds, and the Mediterranean ran by my eyes like trees from a car window. The Tel Aviv shore drew closer each minute, and as I watched the shoreline disappear beneath the plane, a homecoming overwhelmed me.  In that moment, I understood the words of the medieval poet, Yehuda Halevi, Libi b'mizrach..."My heart is in the east."  Even though I hadn’t yet learned them, they welled up within me, we landed, and tears streamed down my face.

My love for the land of Israel, once again welled up in me in 2012, as I watched our children play at Gan Hapaamon (Liberty Bell Park) in Jerusalem, one Shabbat afternoon.  Abraham and Sammy climbed on the monkey bars as words of Hebrew, Arabic, English, French and Amharic wafted through the breeze in a land dreamed of and pined for by Jews, for centuries.  Sammy even got into a 1 on 1 soccer game with an Arab kid, while his dad and I played goalies.  I remember walking back to the hotel, as tears streamed down my face. 

And in 2016, Abraham participated in the Emery Weiner Israel trip, a month-long educational journey that starts with a week in Poland and continues with about 3 weeks in Israel.  And as it turned out, the very same organization that ran Natalie’s 2-month long high school excursion in Israel, were also the organizers of the EWS trip.  If that wasn’t enough, Natalie’s teacher, who had become the Director, hosted Abraham in his home for a couple of nights, precisely when there happened to be a wheelchair basketball streetball tournament in this small Tel Aviv adjacent town of Hod Hasharon!  And upon hearing that our son had not only played in that tournament, but then that he took a cab to Caesarea to compete in another tournament, playing side by side with members of Israel’s national wheelchair basketball team, tears streamed down my face. 

Many, many tears have been shed on behalf of Eretz Yisrael.  And truth be told, I’m not sure I could ever claim that I’ve earned the right to shed them.  But I have nonetheless, and I do.  In Jewish tradition, we don’t have a religious precept such as making hajj to Mecca, but I think we should for it isn’t every epoch when a Jew, a Jewish family, and those who love them, can visit the land of Israel.  (I pray for a future in which this could never again be said.)  The poet, Danny Siegel, wrote:

No one can put to a rhythm-
not Shelley nor Wordsworth
nor the grand sweeping Lord Byron.
And Mozart and Schumann deceive us trying
to make keys and elbows and strings
say things
only a Jewish heart
in love with the holiest of places can say.

 

If you have never been to Israel, or if it’s been a long time, join me for “Israel Your Way,” sponsored, planned, and led by the Houston Jewish Federation, this November 7-13.  Don’t make up your mind now, but come to an information meeting next Thursday, May 26th at 7pm at the new Houston Jewish Federation building to learn how you can get your tear ducts flowing too!  Here’s how you sign up!

Sat, July 2 2022 3 Tammuz 5782