Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My love Affair with Israel and its outcomes

The Kotel from my parents trip in February 1968

First trip to Israel 1972
My love affair with Israel began in 1972 when I journeyed for the first time with my immediate family.  My parents had been for the first time in February of 1968, six months after the 6 Day War and we were there six months before the Yom Kippur War.  My first trip we visited all of the sites, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, The Wall, Yad V'Shem and we also went to Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron.  We had the requisite camel ride and I came home joined Young Judea and began planning my trip back to Israel.

Government building from 33 years ago, 1979
My trip back was not to be until 1979 when I enrolled in at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for my Junior year abroad and I spent the whole year in Israel and experienced all the Chagim, holidays from the fast day of Tisha B'av in the summer to all of the spring holidays of Yom Hashoah, Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day and Yom Hatz-maut, Israel Independence day.  In 1979 it was the 32 Years of Israel and I thought it was a big deal.  Today as Israel celebrates its 65th year almost double since my junior year of college it is wonderful to see the changes and some of similarities having just been in Israel.. It was great to be in Israel to celebrate Yom Ha-atzmaut, in 1980 and we saw the celebrations in the street. When you see all of the Israeli flags hanging from windows, hotels, government buildings, stores and just about everyone you feel a part of something bigger. I don't know if there are as many flags in the streets today but I know I still feel a part of something bigger.

All three of my children have visited Israel, two of them on NFTY's EIE 4 month program and one on a special Birthright trip and am so glad that my love of Israel has been passed down another generation.  All three of my "personal" children studied Hebrew at Day school and are lucky enough to have been able to take Hebrew in our public High School.  My "other" children in my school at Lakeside Congregation, where I am the Educator also have the opportunity to learn and live Israel as well as Hebrew.

Lakeside Congregation Pesach 2013
My Hebrew program although based on becoming proficient in reading in our Siddur and leading T'filot for B'nai Mitzvah also has a modern Hebrew language component.  I tell all my parents that their children will not get off the plane in Israel and get directions to their Hotel in Hebrew but they will be able to read simple signs and count to 10 in Hebrew. I hope to give my students a solid base of Hebrew so that they can continue in high school or later in college. 

B'nai Mitzvah Students and Rabbi Serotta
Last week my congregation came home from a very successful trip to Israel with 40 attendees.  We had four B'nai Mitzvah families along with  different members of our congregation.  We stayed all over Israel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to Tiberias.  We enjoyed Seder at the Dan Panorama Hotel and participated in Dig For A Day at Beit Guvrin on our last day. I delighted in bringing so many people to Israel, many of them for the first time. They loved Israel, had a very meaningful B'nai Mitzvah at the Kotel near Robinson's Arch experience with their Rabbi and Educator,  I believe they learned more Jewish history and about Israel then we could have packed into a year of adult education classes and I think they are inspired to read more on their own.

As Israel begins to commemorate and celebrate their season of remembrance and celebration I look forward to reading the stories, hearing the songs and delighting in celebrating Yom Ha-atzmaut 2013 - 65 years of Israel.  I can't imagine what my blog article will look like in 2048 when Israel hits 100 and I hit 89 but I hope that I will be here to write about it!