Israel Cabinet Rabbinic Mission, Day 4

What a full, exhilarating and emotional day! Day 4 contained all the elements of what this mission is about. Landing back in Newark this morning, we realize that just the experience of the last day was enough to make the trip worth while.

Thursday morning we began our day with an early minyan, a little teaching from a colleague and breakfast. After breakfast we walked a new path that connects Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum) to Har Herzl (Israel’s military cemetery). The path is marked by historic milestones and pictured events that carried us from the Jewish People’s survival to the founding of the State of Israel. Our tour guide shared stories and created images of individuals who survived the Nazi persecution, only to die in defense of the new state. At the cemetery itself, we gave honor to those who died with no family left to grieve for them, and to those who were laid to rest surrounded by family and a loving country.

photo (2)                          photo

Following our tour of the burial place of Israel’s heroes, we met with parents of fallen soldiers, directors of Yal L’banim, an organization that assists mourning families and helps every community memorialize its sons and daughters who die in service of the country. Their stories were poignant, powerful and inspiring, and we hope–as rabbis and as communities–to partner with them in furthering their efforts.

After a short lunch break (McDonald’s for most of us!!!), we visited one of the most exciting infrastructure projects taking place in Israel today. A high speed train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (28 minutes including a 2 minute stop at the airport) is under construction. Among the many remarkable features of this project are the efforts to preserve the natural landscape. The train will travel from point to point only through tunnels and on bridges. Slated for completion by January 2018 (I will believe it when I see it!), the electric train will reduce pollution and improve lifestyle for many immeasurably! We marveled at the engineering ingenuity as we walked through the mountain tunnel, and were excited to see our Bonds dollars at work!

hard hats 

big tunnel

Our next stop was another new experience for most of the rabbis. The 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem is the only other memorial in the world tot he victims of the tragic attack on the United States, and the presence of the memorial is a testament to our bonds of friendship and shared values. The memorial is a statue of an American flag rising like a flame, with a piece of a girder housed in its base, and a ring of the victim’s names encircling the monument.


Our closing dinner gave us the opportunity to debrief from the day, to express our appreciation of the collegiality we shared, and to affirm our commitment to Israel Bonds and the State of Israel. We left full-hearted, with the desire to return to Israel and to one another, and to share all we had learned. Rabbi Drill and I look forward to sharing so much more with you in the weeks ahead.

Our gratitude to Rabbi Hersh for being on call and responding to the synagogue’s needs as he did in our absence.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Craig Scheff

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