Our flight brought us into Ben Gurion this morning just after 9am, Israel time. After collecting our bags, we paused to consider whether we would be taking in the next week as pilgrims or as tourists. It didn’t take us long to get “down and dirty” (so much for being tourists!) as we visited the landscape of the Bible at Ne’ot Kedumim. Our ancestors’ stories came to life as we drew water from the ancient cisterns and crushed olives to make oil. As we herded sheep and reflected on the challenges we faced, the words of Psalms became part of our lesson on leadership, responsibility and compassion. I’ll never read “The Lord is my shephard” the same way again.
Next stop, lunch. And with Chanukah Eve approaching, it is far more likely to find these tasty delights in storefronts, as opposed to tinsel. They seem to be everywhere food is found, and they are called SUFGANIYOT! They are a thick and cakey version of the doughnut, and they are wildly decorated to flavor.
It wasn’t long before we were eating again, as we drank a L’chayim and broke bread (over two very long challahs!) upon our pre-sunset entry into Jerusalem. We were introduced to the many dichotomies Jerusalem (it’s very name a plural) represents: the Jerusalem on high and the Jerusalem of this world, old and new, ancient and modern, east and west, physical and spiritual … and the list goes on. No doubt we will spend many hours considering the complexity of this holiest of cities through the end of the week.
After checking in at the hotel in Jerusalem, we met to process our first day’s experiences in Israel. The most common expression of surprise was how cosmopolitan and developed the country feels. It’s a minor miracle we were still awake to share our thoughts, and perhaps even more miraculous that we still had room for dinner!
Early wake-up call as we head to the Kotel for a Bat Mitzvah celebration in the morning.
God, I am so filled up and full!
Laila tov from us all,
Rabbi Craig Scheff