We landed and immediately felt at home (see my last blog). After pulling together 20 people from varying geographic, demographic, religious backgrounds, as well as varying levels of connection to Israel, over our first dinner (Middle-Eastern food, our course), we quickly came together as one group. Our shehecheyanu was not just for being together in Israel for the first time this year, but also for coming together as a new and incredible community.
Our first full day began with most of us experiencing the Palmach Museum, where we learned the history of the Palmach, and truly gained a sense of understanding of determined the early Zionists were to help create and defend the State of Israel. Afterward, we experienced an afternoon of digging and spelunking as we visited Beit Guvrin, where we learned the detail by which archeologists search to learn our ancient history. Those who had been to Israel numerous times visited the Diaspora Museum and walked the streets of Tel Aviv, learning about the different neighborhoods.
Then we celebrated Shabbat, and like every Shabbat in Israel, it was extremely special. We changed into nicer, clean clothes and made our way to Beit Tfila Yisraeli, a pluralistic community that meets on the beach in the warmer months and in a school during the cooler months. It was a warm, musical, participatory experience in a community that reaches out to secular Israelis and brings them in to a religious environment. The perfect place for Makom NY to celebrate Shabbat!
On Saturday, we left the Tel Aviv area and drove to Caesarea, where we walked around the ancient ruins, learned the many layers of story of the city of Caesarea and simply enjoyed the beauty of the Mediterranean. We then made our way to Haifa, the city that strives to bring Arabs and Jews together in dialogue, activity and friendship. We also viewed the beautiful Bahai Gardens, as we embraced the many aspects of religion in Israel. We perused the mixed city of Acco and made our way north to Kibbutz Kfar Blum, where we are staying for several days as we peruse the North of Israel. We concluded the day with a sweet havdalah ceremony, where people shared a taste of what they did this past week that was impactful or important to them.
We began the day today by touring the Kibbutz and hearing about the differences between kibbutz life then and now. We learned how kibbutzim have completely transformed themselves in order to remain alive and current. We then took jeep rides through the Golan Heights, learned a great deal about security in Israel, and concluded with a little Israeli culture: wine tasting and cow milking. Both brought to life the essence of living in Israel.
As we travel throughout Israel, from North to South, we are not only learning about our history and culture, we are learning about decisions Jews have needed to make throughout time, outside influences on Jewish history and people who made a difference for the Jews. We are also learning how to question, how to discover and how to listen. Every day helps bring Israel to life, and by doing so, makes us a part of the Jewish experience. We can’t wait for the next day to come!
Greetings from Northern Israel,
Rabbi Bravo and the Makom NY Israel Participants, 2016