Monday, May 21, 2018

See you later, Israel


Greetings from Ben Gurion Airport. This post will be brief because we’re headed home and there’s no way to convey the richness of our last day in Israel even if I used all the big words in my vocabulary.
Check out went smoothly. Our first stop today was Yad L’Kashish. There we saw Israeli society at its best. Yad L’Kashish is a non-profit organization that reaches out to Israel’s elderly community with the goal of providing them meaningful employment so that they can continue to feel like contributing members of society, overcome social isolation, and also earn a modest living. Our annual visit to Yad L’Kashish is always thought provoking and inspiring. How come there aren’t more places like this in the world? What would life look like for these vulnerable members of society if they didn’t have Yad L’Kashish? Many of you will be receiving gifts and items that were purchased in their gift store. Know that these items are all handmade, often by Holocaust survivors. They are very beautiful and very special.
Machane Yehudah Market is the heart and soul of Jerusalem. Those of you who have been there can instantly recall the unforgettable sights, sounds, and tastes of the bustling marketplace. We were lucky to be there on a relatively quiet day. And we were even luckier to have a series of vouchers that allowed us to taste a wide array of items from different stores. We also did a ton of shopping with a focus on chocolate and shuk pants.
During the hottest part of the day we found ourselves at Latrun. Latrun is the sight of the first tank battle of the 1948 War of Independence. Today it is a tank museum and even more importantly, it is a memorial to the thousands of fallen members of the IDF’s tank division. Standing in front of the wall of names, Morah Orna read us a letter that Morah Lahav had written about her cousin, Moshe. More a big brother than a cousin, Moshe and Morah Lahav grew up together. When the Yom Kipur War broke out, he left for the front carrying his tallit, straight from synagogue. A few pieces of bread given to him by his mother in his pocket. He fell on the battlefield. Morah Orna had trouble reading the entire letter and many of us couldn’t hold back tears. Especially when Morah Lahav explained what it meant to her that we were visiting Israel as well as why she felt the need to return to Israel herself. The Yom Kipur war was 45 years ago. Its shadow is still present in daily life here in Israel.
Back to Tel Aviv. We had a great time reflecting on the trip and preparing for this Friday’s Kabbalat Shabbat. Then we headed to Independence Hall, the perfect last stop for our trip. There in that modest building we listened to Ben Gurion declare the State of Israel. We sang Hatikvah. And we thought about what it meant to have a Jewish Homeland that exists for all of us, one of the few vibrant democracies in the world. We were lucky to have Independence Hall entirely to ourselves. That’s why we were able to take such a great group picture.
At Maganda we had our farewell dinner. Everyone at too much food. To the point that we were literally passing out tums on the bus ride to the airport. Pray for us. And the people sitting next to us. 
Soon we’ll be home. And as Yishay said this afternoon, it will take some time to digest not only dinner, but everything that has taken place these last two weeks. One of our kids commented that she learned a deep lesson about the meaning of time. On the one hand you could say we were “only here for two weeks.” On the other hand you could say “we spent two whole weeks in Israel.” A lot of wisdom there.
Give them time to sleep. Give them time to download their pictures and unpack their souvenirs. Listen to their stories and reflect back to them what you hear. Enjoy having them back! Tonight at dinner we toasted “The Davis Academy.” In doing so we acknowledged that it is our beloved school community that brought us all together, that instilled in us a love of Israel, a deep and abiding commitment to Jewish life and living, and the love and trust in one another to have made this journey possible.
Feel free to reflect on this post while all of us stink up the plane from Israel to JFK!

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