Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the lights of Tel Aviv glisten as pearls delicately strung on a necklace. The City of Tel Aviv pulsates with life and energy and the people of Israel, despite all of the turbulences facing her neighbors, are enjoying life with contentment, optimism and a joie de vie ! The contingent of 40 from DHJC on our Israel journey at the end of August are in inspired by the beauty of the land of Israel, the depth of Jewish history and sites we have seen and beyond that are deeply impressed by all whom we have met (and overwhelmed by the incredible five star cuisine and remarkably fine wines that we have shared). Our students have become b'nai mitzvah atop Masada, we have kayaked the Jordan River, swam in the Mediterranean and successfully navigated a subterranean water aqueduct built by the Romans.
Jewish journeys build and fortify and inspire our Jewish identity and commitment.. When we conclude Yom Kippur with the phrase (also recited at each seder) of L'Shanah ha-ba-ah b'Yerushalayim - next year in Jerusalem, that pledge has become a reality for all whom are privileged to journey to Israel. The lip synching of Next Year in Jerusalem has been transformed from prayerful words to powerful images that inspire, deepen and bring back amazing memories and smiles to life. Jewish journeys, local and global , reframe our connection to our people, our heritage and our faith. Jewish journeys from Birthright Israel to DHJC trips to local Jewish sites, museums and cultural events and around the globe, open a dazzling spectrum of new Jewish opportunities which can bring a sparkle to our Jewish souls. Ask anyone who has ever traveled to Israel - their enthusiasm and passion for our people and our homeland is all the more brimming and powerfully more passionate.
Benjamin of Tudela was a Jew from Al Andalus. Living in 12th century on the Iberian Peninsula, he expanded his Jewish horizons and pushed the boundaries of his Jewish experiences. Predating Marco Polo by nearly a century, he visited Jewish communities throughout Europe and North Africa, to the Middle East and even into India and China, Benjamin of Tudela wrote a travelogue of his experiences. The images of the Jews he met and the fascinating Jewish communities that he visited, forever and indelibly transformed his life for the better ! Tudela, his home community became ever more precious to him precisely because he recognized and cherished the Judaism and Jewish values, no matter how foreign that he bore witness to through the communities he visited and traditions he encountered .
So too, wherever we have traveled near and far this summer, the sum total of our adventures can have a cumulative and affirmative impact upon our Jewish values, commitments and observances. The sanctity of Jerusalem beckons, the bright lights of Tel Aviv illuminate the seaside promenade as I craft these words. Our journeys inform, shape and craft our lives. May the paths in life we travel upon, bring us closer to our soulful sensitivities, our heritage, faith and families. Shalom from Israel !
Rabbi Howard R. Buechler
Dix Hills Jewish Center