How crazy is it that we woke up in Jerusalem yesterday, spent the day in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, flew from Tel Aviv to New York…and then onto Boston?
Yesterday, we checked out of the hotel and took the bus to the site of the Knesset -- the Israeli Parliament. We compared and contrasted the Knesset to our US Capitol Hill…but the differences were striking. First, the Knesset is located in the hills of Jerusalem and surrounding by magnificent gardens and a park. While nothing was open because it was Shabbat, we talked about the beginning of the State and returned again to Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, to discuss how the Israeli democracy works. We discussed how difficult it is Israel to put together a government because of the many political parties that exist and the ever-changing landscape of things in the region. We saw the famous menorah that stands outside of the Knesset that reminds everyone that Israel is a Jewish state, based on the values and customs of Judaism.
From Jerusalem, we took the famous road to Tel Aviv -- lined with tanks that had been destroyed on the way, and did not make it to Jerusalem during the War for Independence in 1948. The tanks are a living memorial of those who fought for the State of Israel against the British in 1948, and then faced legions of Arabs who attacked from all sides after independence was ultimately declared. We arrived in the big city of Tel Aviv -- where, as opposed to Jerusalem -- most stores and restaurants are open on Shabbat. Big buildings, five-star restaurants, clubs, shopping, beach-side hotels…Tel Aviv is a major city filled with people in their twenties and thirties. We walked the streets of Tel Aviv -- down to the beach, toured the first German neighborhoods built in Tel Aviv, and stood outside Independence Hall where David Ben Gurion declared Israel's independence in May 1948. We walked the famous Tel Aviv streets --- Dizengoff and Rothschild -- with their beautiful tree-lined avenues and beautiful homes in the Bauhaus style of architecture.
Then, we took a short ride to see where Tel Aviv originated -- in the ancient port of Jaffa, just a few minutes drive from Tel Aviv. Jaffa is a 7,000 year-old port, going back to Egyptian times. We talked about the Egyptians, the Phoenicians and Greek mythology with respect to Jaffa. The ancient city of Jaffa, adjacent to the port, is now residential as well as home to some of the finest artists and craftspeople in all of Israel. We walked the winding streets and peered over the tops of houses and studios to see the magnificent sea. We stood in a place in which Jaffa was behind us and Tel Aviv straight in front of us -- which really encapsulated our entire 10-day experience in Israel: a constant juxtaposition of ancient and modern within a very small geographic area. We headed back to Tel Aviv for our final dinner with our Puzzle Israel friends, Nir, Guy and Shachar, some hugs and goodbyes…and then we were off to the airport.
It is always tough to leave Israel. But I have learned that we never really "leave"…we say in Hebrew -- "l'hit'ra-ot -- meaning, "until next time." But never goodbye. Israel always beckons us back again: to see more sites, visit new archaeological digs, explore the modern city as it grows and changes, hike more beautiful trails, eat more fabulous food. We are all tired but satisfied…a good kind of tired that I always associate with coming home from Israel. It is a special type of exhaustion and exhilaration: from a lot of fresh air and sun, from new experiences, moving and touching moments, lots of laughs, and the knowledge that we have left our imprint on the country and that it has most certainly changed us in the process.
It was a terrific experience to see Israel with our Grade 10 students again this year. Rabbi Joe Eiduson and I want to thank everyone for being such great travelers -- for being patient, energetic, passionate and open-minded. We loved being with each and every one of you, our students, and we look forward to sharing our stories with our TBA congregational family.
Rabbis Lisa and Joseph Eiduson