Learning from the Israeli mentality

July 21, 2014 

Two weeks later, there is an all out war taking place, as the IDF is deep into Gaza, trying to stop the rocket attacks and destroy tunnels that were built by Hamas to penetrate deeply into Israel. Their aim is to attack civilians and try  also to kidnap Israelis. Just yesterday a group of terrorists was stopped carrying tranquilizers and cuffs. The IDF fighters are conducting themselves with determination to save their country from daily attacks, and in doing so, they have suffered painful casualties. We mourn with their families.

The situation is tough, and plenty of Israelis are constantly under guard. A few days ago I was in Tel Aviv, meeting friends, and sirens began. I ran with them to a protected area, just to see the Iron Dome System take out rockets over the Tel Aviv sky. It was an out of body experience just standing there.

As I write this, tomorrow, I will be joining with a group of Conservative rabbis, visiting communities in the heavily hit South of Israel, trying to provide them with strength and a sense of company and friendship. Letting them know, that they are not alone.

Every time we recite Shema, we end with word ECHAD, ONE. We refer to God, but also can be that ISRAEL, the Jewish People, are ECHAD, ONE.

We are ONE, whether we are in Deerfield, Argentina, Europe, or Israel.

We are one Jewish family, feeling each other's pain and sorrow, experiencing joy together. We all stand together, shoulder to shoulder, supporting our Israeli family, as they (and we) hope and pray for Shalom.


July 8, 2014

As I write this, I am in Israel, as I was privileged to lead a group  from our B'nai Tikvah family,  following in the footsteps of our patriarchs and matriarchs, revitalizing our own Jewish souls and joining, even if temporarily, with the lives of brothers and sisters that on a daily basis  experience the Zionist ideal.

We had an amazing experience, learning, touring, celebrating life cycle events and spending time with Israelis.

One of the most moving moments to many of us, was spending time with IDF soldiers at the Lebanese border, impressed and touched by their service and how day in and day out, they put themselves on the line to make sure that all Israelis can live in peace and security.

I know that our Israeli experience was one that left an unforgettable impression in the hearts and souls of the participants of our synagogue mission.

After the B’nai Tikvah group returned to Deerfield, I joined with rabbis from all over the U.S. and other parts of the world to study at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, where we have been learning about Jewish perspectives on war and peace. There was a thought, when the summer session was being planned , that this would be a most relevant topic for rabbis to discuss.

And then, within just a few days, lo and behold, war broke out. Already the mood in Israel was somber following the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel (16, from Nof Ayalon), Gilad Shaer (16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (19, from Elad), three Israeli boys going home from their yeshiva studies. This was followed by the murder of a young Palestinian boy, Muhammed abu Khdeir. Nothing can ever  justify this brutality.

Still, Hamas attacks Israel, indiscriminately firing rockets on Israel's population.There are no military targets. Their attempt is to hurt and terrorize. The southern front , as usual, is the first target. But then, all of Israel becomes a prospective victim. No area is off limits as innocent civilians, Israelis of all ages are under attack.

On July 8, as I had just arrived at the apartment where I am staying in Jerusalem, all of a sudden I heard the sirens alerting us all that rockets were being shot against the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

Scenes that I would only watch at home in Deerfield, on CNN, all of a sudden became a reality for me. I felt goose bumps and realized that that is the feeling that Israelis feel anytime Israel is under attack, regardless of where they live in the homeland.

I rushed toward a safe room, far from windows and outside walls since I had no idea of where to find the shelter near my building. Then, I went to the stairs.

After a few minutes the sirens stopped, and an eerie silence fell over the city. It was relief as well as worry over what is taking place in other parts of the country.

Somebody asked how I feel being here at this time. Why don’t I go back to the safety of the U.S.? My answer was, "K'sheani baaretz, ani margish sheani babayit," – “When I am in Israel, I feel at home."

In my prayers, I thank God that I am here with my extended Jewish family, and that I am ok. I pray harder than ever before, together with all Israelis and Jews throughout the world. I hope for the end of the rockets and for the success of the Israel Defense Forces as they continue to do whatever is necessary to silence the terrorists who aim at innocent civilians.

During this time, Israelis were all still eager to watch World Cup matches. Soccer is a passion in this country, and no rocket attacks will take away their desire to follow the game. Only in Israel! Israelis are used to live life to the fullest and even a tense and dangerous situation does not deter them from doing what brings to them a measure of joy.

We can learn a lot from Israel and her people. Something that I have always admired is the sense of gratitude that they enjoy on a daily basis. There are always crises, attacks, war, but still they go on with their lives, living life to the fullest, making the best of it. In fact, that is how this 66-year-old country was built. With inner strength, with hope, with the conviction that this little piece of land is a dream come true, that no rocket can destroy.

Israel and Israelis are an ongoing inspiration. They have achieved so much even under constant fire! Still, they haven't been blessed with peace.

Let us all join in prayer, as we hope for Shalom, in the words of Psalm 29:

Adonai oz l'amo yiten, Adonai yevarech et amo b'shalom

"May God give strength to his people;May God blesses his people Israel with peace."

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