As I am now home in the presence of my loving and wonderful family, my thoughts still are very much on my recent trip to Israel. Israel is very much an ancient and modern land filled with dreams, hopes, aspirations, challenges, and contradictions.
It has undergone many significant changes since I was last there. Some of the changes are for the better, while some unfortunately are not. For example Israel now has one of the highest disparities. between those who have and those who don’t. There were recent demonstrations due to the lack of affordable housing. The Orthodox still have way too much control over Israel. And there are now far too many cars on the road. And the Arab shuck is now completely devoid of artisans.
On the flip side, there are now many more amazing restaurants and dining opportunities than ever before. There are more and more incredible and interesting historical sites to visit. The number of foreign visitors is a site to behold in and of itself. The artist quarter of Tzefat is thriving once again, and the quality and quantity of Judaica is simply a wonder to behold.
A few last random thoughts:
You won’t find Kahlua in kosher restaurants and hotels. Just ask David, he tried everywhere.
Israeli beers are still not very good, but there are now microbrews that are making a better name and brew. However they do now have at least one new fan.
Quality shopping can be found in the most unexpected of places
WiFi is not nearly as free as it should be
Everyone still has an opinion about everything, and every resident can do a better job of being Prime Minister.
Fox News is the favorite international news channel
And yes, even walking every day all day, with this food, one can and should gain weight.
And the game of punning is alive and well. Between Mike and myself, we caused almost as much groaning as Pharaoh did to the Israelites 2500 years ago.
When I lived in Israel fourteen years ago, I was struggling through my life there. I was trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to learn a new language. I was wrestling with the meaning of being a rabbinic student. I was navigating the realities of living life in modern Israel.
Coming back, I have spent nearly a decade as a rabbi. I have learned so much more about our people, heritage, and tradition because I have been living it and teaching it. This time in Israel I was much better able to contextualize everything that I was seeing as I have studied it, taught it, or sermonized it at one time or another.
And yet, I feel there is so much more to see and do. For a land no bigger than New Jersey, there is a tremendous amount packed into every nook and cranny. I can’t wait until I return again.
Thank you to David for coordinating the trip. Thank you to Mike for leading. To Yossi who can maneuver a bus in places that only a proctologist would dare. And lastly, thank you to all of the members of the Har Sinai Congregation Israel 2012 trip. L’shana Ha’ba’ah B’Yerushalayim, Next Year (or at least 2014) in Jerusalem!