OJC Israel Experience Day Nine: The Old and the New
As the tumultuous last days of the year 2016 unfold and unravel around us, here in Tel Aviv, Israel, we were focused and anchored, spending the day energized by this city. We saw a place where Jewish life is lived with diversity and creativity, where secular identity is steeped in Torah and religious identity is shaped by universal realities.
We learned about the establishment of this new city literally carved out of the sand by seashell lottery.
And we learned the history of what happened in 1948 to make this country, our homeland, a reality.
Hertzl said: “All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.” What a powerful description of the founding of the state of Israel.
At Independence Hall, when we stood to sing Hatikva, many of us cried. Even those of us who have experienced the presentation multiple times cried. In the recording of the 1948 Declaration of the State, one hears the orchestra play without any voices singing the words. Why? All of those present were weeping with a combination of joy and anxiety after Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence and Shehechiyanu was recited. Those present could not find their voices. Today, voices from all over the world sing Hatikva every hour on the hour. In so doing, we take our place in the history of Israel, singing on behalf of those here on May 14, 1948 who wept instead of singing.
We left Independence Hall to walk the streets of Tel Aviv and explore the Carmel Market.
A visit to Ayalon, the underground bullet factory in Rehovot, brought us full circle to the miracle and the sacrifice that was the War of Independence.
Our day together was capped off by candle lighting for the fifth night of Chanukah and dinner with the members of Kehillat Sinai, a Masorti kehillah (synagogue community) in the center of Tel Aviv. Rabbi Eliahu Peretz greeted us and shared a bit about this small egalitarian community.
How fortunate we are at the Orangetown Jewish Center to be well-versed in the complexity of Jewish life and the challenges of pluralism and acceptance here in Israel. Our visit was one of being graciously hosted, but more importantly, bringing the strength and commitment of our synagogue to a sister synagogue in Israel.
As people set off to explore nightlife in Tel Aviv, we have a great deal to think about. What is most important, I think, is to love Israel and support her… and see her with a realistic perspective. There is much work to be done here, and as our congregation continues to volunteer here, visit, advocate, get educated, support financially, and see some of our children make aliya, we fulfill our obligation (each in our own way) to our homeland.
From the lights of Tel Aviv to the lights in your windows, happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill