The last time I was in Israel was over six years ago when I led our congregational trip. Truth be told, since my last trip I have felt my connection to Israel grow ever more thin.
Part of this was due to a deep sense of frustration. There was no viable roadmap toward peace with the Palestinians. The Israeli government continued to sanction the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Orthodox authorities insured that Progressive Jews were denied equal benefits. Lastly, I was angry with Bibi Netanyahu’s contempt for the legitimate concerns of Reform Jews in the Diaspora.
In my soul, I knew I badly needed to find a way to reconnect. Fortunately, I had the opportunity last fall for a month long sabbatical in Israel. I found renewal by immersing myself in the amazing mélange of Israeli life. I became an Israeli foodie: seeking off the beaten track places to eat delicious food from around the world. I went to museums to explore Israeli art that fearlessly addresses the dynamics between Jews and Arabs; as well as Orthodox and secular Israelis. I worshipped in Reform congregations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and felt the stirring spirituality of song, prayer, and Torah.
Most importantly, I reconnected with family and friends, some of them native Israelis, others who made aliyah. Sitting together over a meal, of course we talked politics. But more importantly, we enjoyed the pleasure of telling stories in Hebrew and in English about ourselves and our families. I felt once again my tremendous admiration for the courage, determination, and ingenuity of my Israeli mishpocha.
I have been in a relationship with Israel for over 40 years. It really should not be surprising that over the course of decades a relationship waxes and wanes.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding as a Jewish state. How would you characterize your relationship with Israel at this time? What has remained constant over the years? And what has changed?