Reflections on My Recent Trip to Israel
In June, I traveled to Israel for the wedding of my son Ilan. We had a wonderful time but as usual, there were new experiences and ideas which I have not had previously and which I wish to share with you.
Reflection #1 – The wedding took place in a beautiful place on the grounds of smallish by Israeli standards place in Tel Aviv. The only problem is that right behind the site of the wedding, there was a train track. You guessed it! Towards the end of the ceremony a passenger train came by and we had to wait for it to pass. But what was so cool was that the conductor apparently saw the wedding and tooted the train’s whistle! In Israel, even trains say Mazel Tov to a new bride and groom!
Reflection #2 – On this trip I learned a new word. For some reason, I wondered what Modern Hebrew called the “at” (@) sign which we use in email addresses. The answer which surprised me what that in Modern Hebrew the sign “@” is called “strudel.” (Strudel of course is the wonderful layered which originated in Hungary. The oldest recorded strudel recipe is from the 17th century.) A good lesson in how an ancient language grows and develops!
Reflection #3 – While there, I attended w more that 150,000 people from all over the world a “Gay Pride” parade in Tel Aviv. The celebration took place for the entire week and the parade took place at the end of the week of festivities. The hotels were full. The streets and the stores were festooned in rainbow colored flags. Even the coffee shows had special rainbow cups for the day. The parade was really more of a march with the vast majority of people joining in. The parade ended with a huge party at the beach.
(While I was in Israel, my Greensboro colleague Rabbi Eli Havivi performed the marriage of two congregants, Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin who have been a couple for forty seven years. Unfortunately, a letter from an apostate, a man who many years ago had been a Jew, was printed in the News and Record. The letter quoted an Orthodox rabbi who maintained that such weddings were against Jewish law. While it is certainly true that there are a variety of opinions concerning same sex marriage within the Jewish community, there is an overwhelming consensus within our community that all people regardless of race, religion or sexual preference deserve equal rights under the law. In this case, this would mean that the same rights granted to heterosexual couples under American law should be granted to same sex couples. The saddest part of the letter was that this made who has been a devout Christian for many years wrote in a misleading way which implied that he was a Jew.)
Reflection #4 – While there, the press reported of a young Syrian girl named Nadrah who along with her mother came to Israel for care following her heart transplant. The operation was performed under the auspices of the Israel based “Save a Child’s Heart” which brings children from all over the world to Israel for life saving surgeries. By the way, earlier this year a kidney from a Jewish child was harvested and used to save the life of a Palestinian child.
Reflection #5 – While there, it was reported that 93,000 people had been killed in the Syrian Civil War. No one knows how to stop the carnage, but for Israelis, the publication of these latest numbers only served to remind them that they live in a dangerous neighborhood.
As usual, I returned a few pounds heavier for the food there is incredible! Once again, I felt a deep sense of amazement at what a wonderful country Israel has become. Yes, the country faces many problems and how to achieve peace with it neighbors if certainly at the top of the list. In spite of what one reads in the newspapers or sees on television, Israel remains a vibrant democracy, the only true democracy in that part of the world, and stands as a beacon of hope for the future of the Jewish people.
By Rabbi Fred Guttman