Thursday, January 21, 2010


“You’re packing for a place none of us have been, a place that has to be believed to be seen.

– U2, Move On

“In Israel you have one mishpachah – one family. I am family, he [my son] is family, you are family. You understand?”

– Moti, taxi driver

Moti left Iran three years ago because of Ahmedinejad’s intense anti-Semitism. Yesterday he gave me a ride to Be’er Sheva so that I could travel to Eifrat to meet my cousins, and on the way we picked up his son, Liran. From the back seat, Liran translated between Hebrew and English so that Moti and I could talk more easily. I told him that I wasn’t planning on making Aliyah (literally “going up”- moving - to Israel), because almost everyone I love is back home. He patted my knee and told me that here, we are all one big Mishpachah.

I am not going to move here, but I have come to understand that Israel is a home. Israel has been the Jews’ true home for thousands of years, and my cousins’ hospitality wonderfully reinforced my sense of belonging. Batsheva and Doug live in Eifrat with their four children, and I joined them for their son Efraim’s Hanichat Tefillin – putting on Tefillin for the first time, a month before his Bar Mitzvah. We went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, and as Efraim donned his Tefillin I donned my Tallis.

After we dovenned and joined a Minyan, Doug took me up to the wall. As we approached, we bumped into his friend who offered to help me put on Tefillin as well. So, just as my little cousin wore Tefillin for the first time today at the Kotel, so did I. Tefillin have been made the same way for thousands of years, just as the Kotel has stood for generations.

Humbled Jews surrounded the Kotel, worshipping in their own ways and forming one beautiful cacophony of prayer. This sure is one massive mishpacha. Our family is not only the Jews of Israel today, but our ancestors of antiquity and our children of tomorrow.

I’ve come home to Israel for the first time, but I have continued wandering since I arrived. I have wandered alone in the deserts, seeking out a deeper personal connection to this complex and beautiful land. Israel is not simply a physical home, it is the land that we make it. It is a land of beauty and a land with intense potential for positive growth. Learning from U2’s “Walk On”, we must believe in Israel if we hope to see it’s true beauty.

I am not a U2 fan, but I read this line in a D’var on this weeks Torah portion, Parshat Bo. The D’var is American Jewish World Service’s “D’var Tzedek” for this week, written by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster. She draws on the story of Exodus to seek empathy for modern-day refugees. As I explore my home in the land of Israel, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have a home at all. Rabbi Kahn-Troster writes:

For today’s refugees, no one has foretold the end of their exile, like God did for Abraham. The length of their displacement cannot be estimated and the path of their journey cannot be anticipated. Generations might be born and raised in refugee camps. The concept of home slowly becomes elusive, describing neither the impermanence of the refugee camp nor the country of origin: as U2 sings, “Home... hard to know what it is if you've never had one.”

The critical importance of environmental education in Israel is coming into focus. Last week we taught a seventh grade class about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. As global climate change envelopes every world citizen in a planetary crisis, Israel must lead the way toward progress.

As I read Rabbi Kahn-Traster’s D’var making this connection, I felt her words wrenching my gut:

But it is not just war that creates refugees. At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stated that climate change will become the biggest driver of population displacement within the not-too-distant future, as droughts become more frequent and rising sea levels inundate coastal and island nations.

As a young nation in an ancient homeland, we must share our gratitude with the world. I am proud that Israel has one of the most successful field hospitals operating in Haiti, and hope that the Jewish state will help lead the world forward. We are incredibly lucky to be back in our homeland, a safe-haven for Jews like Moti, and a home for us all.

Only 65 years ago we were refugees, our families murdered in the Holocaust, our livelihoods and homes stolen. The Roman empire destroyed the second temple in 70 CE, and the Third Reich attempted to annihilate us during WW2.

Batsheva, Doug, Ayala, Chana, Efraim and Yoseph – thank you for sharing your home with me. I look forward to celebrating Shabbat with you next week in Eifrat!


U2: "Walk On"

AJWS' D'var Tzedek (inluding this year's Parshat Bo)

1 comment:

  1. Shabbat shalom David. I am continuing to enjoy wandering through Israel with you. Been thinking quite a bit about your notion of "man creating G-d" concept. Hopefully we'll have a chance to talk about in February when you return.