It’s hard to believe it’s been just ten days since we boarded a plane from Newark for Israel. The time we spent has been so rich, so meaningful, so full of encounters and emotions. It was especially meaningful to spend the ‘yemei todah‘ – the ‘days of gratitude’ from Yom ha-Shoah, to Yom ha-Zikaron, to Yom ha-Atzma’ut – in Israel. The term is a play on the aseret yemei teshuvah between Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, and just as that time is supposed to be one of consideration and reflection, so too the period of these three observances is an opportunity to reflect – in this case with gratitude for the unprecedented blessing of a modern Jewish state, as well as the terrible losses that both preceded its formation and have sustained it.
Of course, part of that reflection is the realization of how much more still needs to be done and the important role that we can play in working toward a country that is fully free and fully secure. As we gathered in the airport before our return flight, I read once again the prayer for a safe journey that I had offered as we departed Or Hadash ten days earlier. The prayer had been formed from a list of our own hopes and aspirations for the trip – what we hoped to see, experience, do, and feel – and I read the prayer now one more, inviting us to consider how many of our goals for the trip we had accomplished. As I read off each item, participants called out their affirmations to indicate that we had meet that goal; there was an especially strong shout out when I read ‘experience comradery with our fellow congregants’ because the group connection we had formed over the course of this trip was so special and close. It was only when we came to the last item on the list that we paused. This was the part of the prayer that spoke about bringing back what we have learned to others in the community: “And may we return in peace to our homes and to Or Hadash to share these experiences and insights and help people connect through us, and bring Israel to a more central place within the life of our congregation.” This part of our prayer, of course, is yet to be fulfilled and it requires all of us in the community to help bring it to fruition – which I have no doubt we will do just as surely as we accomplished all our other hopes for this incredible trip.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog and being a part of our congregational trip as well. To hear more about our trip and make good on our promise to share what we have learned, please plan to join us on Friday night, May 29 at 8:00 where those congregants who were with us will relate their impressions and experiences. May this trip lay the groundwork for many future congregational visits and lead to a deepening of our connections with Israel as individuals and as a community. As the country begins its sixty-eighth year of existence may we grow in our appreciation and love of Israel and all it can be – for us, for the Jewish people, and for all the world.