From March 16 to March 24, members of our community explored Israel as part of our congregational mission. Led by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, participants experienced Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, a b’nai mitzvah at the historical Baram National Park, Masada and the Dead Sea, dialogue with journalists and political figures, and more.
Here, travelers Debra and Paul Appelbaum reflect on the start of their Israel journey.
Our mission kicked off with a spiritual Shabbat service at the Beit Daniel Progressive Synagogue in Tel Aviv. We were warmly welcomed as guests to their shul and Rabbi Hirsch was invited to give a sermon in Hebrew. The Stephen Wise children sang a joyful rendition of Adom Olam. We were surprised to learn how many tunes we have in common in our services. And while enjoying a kiddish, we were not surprised that their chocolate rugulah pretty much blows ours out of the water!
Later during dinner, we had a lively conversation about anti-Semitism and the Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement.
On Shabbat morning, we heard from Col. Dr. Eran Lerman, the former national security advisor. He gave us an overview of Israel’s place in the world and how it has become much more of a national player on the world stage.
Next we visited the old city of Jaffa and then explored a gentrifying neighborhood (Tel Aviv’s “Williamsburg”) with Niro Taib, a local resident and graffiti artist. Niro encouraged us to use graffiti art to interpret what the art meant for us and what the artist may have been saying about local issues in Israel.
A highlight was visiting the Ayalon Institute, where we learned how the Haganah created a secret underground bullet factory under the nose of the British. We marveled at how they hid an entire factory in a kibbutz underground and directly below a laundry room. They made over 5 million bullets and did not have one explosion/accident, which could have killed all of them and the kibbutz kindergarten right above ground.
We enjoyed delicious ice cream and visited Rabin Square. We felt moved to stand in the exact spot that he was assassinated.
Our day ended with a delicious family style dinner at Cassis restaurant on the beach. While the grown ups finished their main courses, we took turns watching the children roll up their pants and wade in the ocean and play in the sand.