Monday, September 05, 2011

A Month Back in the City

Hi, everyone and anyone who has been patiently checking this site.

August raced to a close, and sabbatical time has ended. I had looked forward to seeing beloved congregants, students, and spiritual companions -- all of whom I wished could have been with us for the best of our Israel time. The return has been extraordinarily beautiful, warm, and inspiring.

It's been a while since we posted. I could not have imagined how difficult it would be to manage both the deep sadness of leaving Israel and the exhaustion we felt upon our arrival back in the city.These have been days of soul-searching, intense learning, and a determined effort to apply complex lessons learned over the last three months.

I wanted to thank you for following our Israel journey and also ask whether you had any interest in continuing this exchange, which has been enormously rewarding. (I confess to being astonished by the number of hits on our site.) I'd like to keep the promise we made to continue sharing the reflections on our time in Israel which we simply had no time to post.

If you are interested, please use the "Comment" feature to let me know -- it would be a pleasure to continue.

I hope you have had a wonderful season -- it seems we missed most of the first Winnipeg summer in memory to have been virtually mosquito-free.


Rabbi Larry

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Incident on a Haifa Beach

While spending a few hours Friday afternoon on one of Haifa's Mediterranean beaches, Laurelle spotted two children struggling in the waves. Even though the beach was monitored by lifeguards and there were others observing what was happening, it was Laurelle who went to their aid. She kept them from drowning long enough for two bystanders summoned by Keithen -- the lifeguards had remained oblivious to both Laurelle's and Keithen's calls -- to come to her aid.

In fact the struggle to survive the rough water was so intense that Laurelle was exhausted and unable to return to shore herself. Keithen brought her to shore.

When she returned to our apartment and filled me in on what had happened, she said that the two boys were approximately ages five and seven, and were evidently at the beach unsupervised. The clueless lifeguards never saw the drama unfold. The children, who had clung to Laurelle as she struggled to bring them to shallower water and safety-- and had imperiled her -- left without even thanking her. I doubt their parents will ever know what happened to their children. Did I mention that the two children turned out to be Israeli Arabs?

Gratitude to the One Who grants strength to those who have survived peril. I am grateful she is alive. She and Keithen are unsung heroes. I am grateful they are both alive.

A peaceful Shabbat to everyone.

Rabbi Larry

Monday, July 25, 2011

One of the challenges of our stay thus far has been reading maps in the two cities in which we've been living. Maps of cities on hills like Jerusalem and Haifa display streets on a two-dimensional grid -- but unless the map has a topographical key, you may not realize that what appears to be a smooth line is really a street that ascends and descends in the midst of breathtaking forested vistas. Spiralling ascents appear as motifs in ancient wall paintings and as symbols in advertising for luxury apartment complexes.

It's been that way for a while now: moody whorls surrounding crystalline moments. Before we left Jerusalem we made another visit to the Kotel plaza and also to the "Burnt House" and its sister site, the Wohl Archaeological Museum, which contains more antiquities from the time of Herod the Great -- mikvaot [plural of mikvah, ritual baths], two smaller houses whose floors are decorated with still-vivid mosaic floors, and most spectacularly the ruins of the palatial house of an extended priestly family containing multiple mikvaot, rooms tiled and decorated with more mosaics, and remarkable cisterns for storing water for ritual bathing, hygiene, cooking, sleeping, and so on. With what once were clear views of the Second Temple, both the Burnt House and the residences in the Herodian museum would have been inhabited by families deeply invested in the daily conduct of Temple affairs. The Bar Kathros family whose home was destroyed by the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple and whose lives were likely ended there (the bones of a young woman's severed arm were found, together with an iron spear point, as well as implements marked "Bar Kathros") are mentioned in Talmud, in Pesachim -- along with some unpleasant remarks about them and several other priestly families who allegedly abused their authority.

We expected to race through these exhibits, but instead found ourselves lingering and demanding more of these silent stones, tiles, and plaster. Laurelle pored over each sign and placard, softly reading sections of each. We were blessed to be the only tourists for much of our walk through the Wohl Museum; the quiet lent a note of reverence to every footstep. Keithen, ever the explorer and adventurer, for his part led us to overlooks and new perspectives not readily spotted from the prescribed path: a stairway descending into one of the cisterns with an unusually-small mikvah built at the head of the stairs.  

When I first visited Jerusalem, these ruins were all part of excavations of the "Jewish Quarter"; everything was exposed to the elements. The sites are now three to seven meters below street level, and above them the Jewish Quarter has been rebuilt. The Wohl Museum is located under a yeshiva [think of it as a Jewish seminary and school for ongoing sacred studies], and the Burnt House in a separate venue. To emerge from reimagining ancient priestly life into the light of ongoing modern Israel is an extraordinary experience.    

We also made our way to Hezekiah's Tunnel to make our way down the waterway; on our first visit someone in the group ahead of us had fainted within the narrow descending waterway and an emergency medical team had to extract him/her. The number of people already in the tunnel was so large that we who had been waiting to descend were diverted to a nearby exit or to a dry, parallel tunnel.

We'd promised ourselves a return to complete the water tunnel. The flow of people descending was steady, but luck plays a big factor in how we experienced this remarkable feat of engineering. The evidence is that King Hezekiah's tunnel engineers started from two different directions -- one team chiseling upward, and the other downward from the plateau of the City of David [not to be confused with the current "Old City of Jerusalem" -- this is where David and Solomon established the ANCIENT city of Jerusalem which later expanded and became the site now surrounded by walls built during the Ottoman Empire about 400-450 years ago].  Hezekiah commanded that the tunnel be built in preparation for a long siege that he anticipated the city would face when the Assyrians attacked.

Along the way you can see places where the workers veered off the mark, stopped, and reclaimed the correct upward path, and, of course, there is a place which is marked where the tunnelers met upon completing the aqueduct. [The plaque put in place over 2700 years ago was discovered and placed in the Israel Museum.] Archaeologists have pretty much figured out how the project was accomplished without modern technology:  it is possible to stand on the surface of the hill and, putting an ear to the limestone karst, hear the sounds of chiselling far underground.

The water tunnel is so narrow that it barely permits adults enough space to turn around. People are advised to wear footwear suitable for walking in water, which ranges on an adult from just above ankle depth to mid-thigh. The water is a cold, steady, clear stream through which you can see remnants of ancient plaster that once lined parts of the waterway. In places the height of the channel shrank enough to require us to stoop for varying distances.

Unfortunately we made our descent in the company of several dozen teenagers from the U.S. who thought it was cool to fill most of the 533-metre tunnel with noise -- their repertoire consisting largely of camp songs ("999 Bottles of Beer..."; medleys of half-remembered pop lyrics, chauvinistic youth group slogans,  and so on). Ahead of us was an Orthodox Israeli guiding his brother and nephew, proudly sharing his considerable knowledge of the tunnel and its history, legend, and lore. He had graciously invited us to join them -- but nothing much mattered when the wall of sound erupted from behind us. I periodically fell back and asked the teens' madrichim to quiet them, but nothing escapes teen spirit. About two-thirds of the way down the tunnel, I stepped back and told them that I would block the tunnel and prevent people from moving forward if they didn't shut up.

It worked for a while -- long enough to imagine what it would have been like working the darkness with hammer and chisel by the light of olive oil lamps.  As we approached the exit, the height of the tunnel soared, and we realized that they must have had visions of the whole channel being something like that lower cavity. Their plans surely changed as they realized the work involved.

Emerging at the end from the damp and chill into the heat and light of the valley -- Siloam (an Arabic corruption of the Hebrew Shiloh) -- we were back in 21st century Jerusalem. On the short shuttle uphill to the entrance of the City of David archaeological site, I thought about the families settled in this area -- mainly Arabs with a smattering of determined Jewish refugees from Arab countries, eking out a living in occupations over centuries, and all the while sitting on the remarkable hidden archaeological treasures beneath the surface. Eilat Mazar, daughter of Binyamin Mazar, who is responsible for much of what has been discovered, deserves an extraordinary note of appreciation for her persistence, vision, and genius in bringing this ancient centre of civilization to light.

More to come....

Hope you are well, and, again, thanks for your patience.

Rabbi Larry       

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surprises and Delays

Sorry it's been almost a week since the last post. Everyone is, thank God, well, but, with the exception of Keithen, not well-rested for good reasons.

It's been late days, wonderful encounters with old and new friends, fondly-remembered places, more discoveries about the influence of time upon the landscape of Jerusalem, and simple exhaustion at day's end, followed by early starts the very next day. Hartman Institute classes ended, but the readings and conversations did not conclude with the last class; after services, in restaurants, walking on the streets, the lessons continue.

It's been emotionally and physically taxing. For example, after a long, deeply moving day at Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust, we left shortly before the entire facility was emptied because of a forest fire (apparently deliberately set) that sent dense smoke across much of Jerusalem and coated everything with ash.

Another day in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was also emotionally challenging:  I remembered that area  -- including the Churva Synagogue -- as a place of ruins and archaeological digs, and to see what has been done to renew, restore, and inspire a sense of the "Long Now" that is Jewish time left me drained in yet another, different way.

All of this begs more time for writing and I hope you will bear with me -- our schedule is shifting and we will be able to share more in the next day or two.


Rabbi Larry

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beauty in the Mundane

Hello friends!

So far this week has been...interesting.

After spending a wonderful Shabbat with friends after davening at Shira Hadasha once again, the week commenced with a walk and ice cream to start the week just after dark.  I have to admit it was romantic, strolling hand in hand with Rabbi Larry, in the moonlight.

Yom Rishon, Sunday was met with another of Larry's marathon days at Hartman, so Keithen and I set out by bus for Tel Aviv.  I had a lovely chat with a widow from New Jersey about the merits of teaching Shakespeare in Grade 9 (she was an English teacher), our only children, and the longing to live in Israel even though that seems impossible right now.  She helped us find our way into the Central Bus Station, and with little difficulty, made our way through the various levels and were on our way!  

We had a rather disappointing trip to the Eretz Israel Museum -- I think we are now spoiled after the magnificence of the Israel Museum, freshly reopened after a 100 million dollar renovation and expansion.  We shopped a little, then spent a relaxing afternoon on the beach before heading home, a little crisp around the edges but tired and happy.  

Where last week was a week of feeling, this has been a week of stimulation with the entry point being the mind.

Larry is immersed in his studies about Jewish Peoplehood with brilliant teachers and fellow students at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and had the opportunity on Monday to participate in a tiyul that went all over the West Bank, visiting settlements, a new, exciting planned Palestinian city which is in the early stages of construction and will creates tens of thousands of homes and permanent jobs upon completion, and meeting with a former military officer who was personally responsible for the design, placement, and maintenance of the security wall/fence.  He had a wonderful time and learned much more from all perspectives about the facts on the ground and heard much speculation about how Palestine's entrance into the UN as a member state may affect everything about how folks live in this part of the world, for better or worse, short and long term.

Unfortunately, Larry pinched nerve in his lower back (12 hours on a bullet-proof bus will do that to you), and had to spend Tuesday in bed. Larry is now back to his studies, though moving gingerly and not walking distances for the next little while.  Though he accepted that he had to stop for a while, I could tell that Rabbi Larry was itching to be studying, not wanting to miss a thought or nuance on a perspective already held.  

Larry was certainly well enough to insist (Did I say insist?  I think the actual words were "If you don't go I am going to be really angry and upset with you; you have to do this for me." How can I say no in the face of the type of Jewish guilt typically reserved for use by the mothers of teen-aged sons? -- loving manipulation at its most brilliant) that I attend a special evening at the Israel Museum with the Hartman group and many spouses even though he was not well enough himself Tuesday evening.  

It was a lovely evening which commenced with a talk by the curator of the Shrine of the Book about the metaphoric placement of the Israel Museum in the centre of "life" in West Jerusalem together with the Knesset, Supreme Court and Hebrew University (as opposed to the metaphoric centre of "death" in the location of Yad Vashem and other sites.  We then had the option of attending various curator-led tours -- I attended a tour of the archaeology wing which was fascinating, as the discussion not only focused on the artifacts but on the placement decisions within the sprawling exhibit and what items were removed and which remained (the overall collections were reduced by 30% with the renovation by design, and the collection is displayed with exquisite thought and care).

We then proceeded to an outdoor patio overlooking the hills and valley to the east, with the setting sun behind us making the Jerusalem limestone glow, and were treated to talk by the Director of the museum, James Snyder.  Those of you who are museum fans may recall that he was responsible for the redesign of MOMA in the 1990s.  Again, we were were exposed to a brilliant talk about the design and curatorial decisions which have rendered the Israel Museum one of the top museums in the world.  Then we finally were able to eat an exquisite meal with steak, chicken, salmon, falafel, eggplant, and more, all under the stars of Jerusalem.  I have to admit I was glad Larry made me go...

Last night, a final feast for the mind came in the form of a 2 hour lecture and question/answer session with Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer.  My description of his credentials won't do him justice, so here is a part of his bio from the Princeton University website, where he is now a professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies:

"Following a 29-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Daniel C. Kurtzer retired in 2005 with the rank of Career-Minister. From 2001-2005 he served as the United States Ambassador to Israel and from 1997-2001 as the United States Ambassador to Egypt. He served as a political officer at the American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv, Deputy Director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs, speechwriter on the Policy Planning Staff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. Throughout his career, Kurtzer was instrumental in formulating and executing U.S. policy toward the Middle East peace process.  He crafted the 1988 peace initiative of Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and in 1991 served as a member of the U.S. peace team that brought about the Madrid Peace Conference. Subsequently, he served as coordinator of the multilateral peace negotiations and as the U.S. Representative in the Multilateral Refugee Working Group."

Needless to say, we had an amazing opportunity to hear Professor Kurtzer's thoughts on Palestine's entry to the UN, the possible implications for Israel, how we may get to a creative two state negotiated solution and how this may be delayed -- or even possibly hasten -- the advent of a negotiated resolution to this particular mid-east issue. He dispelled common misunderstandings and raised questions that were thought-provoking, intelligent, and timely.  He also talked about how, depending on how Palestinian entry into the  UN is handled by all parties involved, it has the potential to create positive international changes for Israel at the UN (but you know what they say about potential). Rabbi Larry and I have not finished digesting the material we were presented with last night, but we will definitely be talking about this more, here or in another forum, soon.

There is hopefulness in the air here -- and trepidation. What I find  most fascinating, though, is that many people, Israeli, American, Canadian, all share the common desire for peace and prosperity for Israelis and for Palestinians as well as their states.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Makes Me Cry

Since I have been here, two things have made me cry.  Okay,three things.  

The Friday before last, we climbed Masada.  Those of you who know me well are aware that I take great joy in planning, but, reasonably philosophical about these things, also know that plans are just that -- plans.  A scheme.  Blueprint.  Recipe meant as a guide, not to be followed with precision.  In this case, that mindset was a good thing, as the only thing that went according to plan was that all three of us were at the gate waiting for entrance to Masada at 4:27 a.m. -- three minutes early than scheduled, environmentally-responsible wind-up flashlights in hand. 

The first of a few to gain entrance so early, we started the long climb up the snake path in the dark.  The literature says this climb takes 45 minutes to an hour.  We were doing well, sentinels for those behind us -- and then the tour buses arrived, filled with kids from all over America on a national Federation trip.  Those walks up and down the hills of Jerusalem, our hike in Ein Gedi -- nothing prepared us for the difficulty of the trip that our ancestors made in defiance of the Romans 2000 years ago.  

Light began to visit us, and the kids began to overtake us -- first a few, and then we were overtaken even by the stragglers -- you know, the ones with asthma or other ailments.  Keithen, embarrassed by his out-of-shape parents, joined a group and left us behind, occasionally calling to us to encourage us to continue the climb.  Larry and I were each other's cheerleaders, and, though the morning sun (glorious sun!) broke over the mountains of Moab, (the reddest and the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen) before we reached the top of Masada, we made it -- eventually.

Larry and I paused three quarters of the way up, shared a hug and a kiss - shvitz and all - and a little teary, I said a Shehechiyanu blessing and the blessing for wonders of nature.  Then, with Keithen far above us, had him say one, too -- for races to the top are well and good, but not at the expense of the wonder of the journey.  I cried a little.

I have to admit that there were moments for both Larry and me where we thought we might not make it, but with the encouragement of the other, we made it just after 6:00 a.m!  If I thought that I couldn't be more moved than witnessing the sunrise, imagine me, with Larry and Keithen at the top of Masada, looking out over the Dead Sea, crying out the depth of my feeling as a Jew in a way I truly did not anticipate.  I have never felt so completely connected to Am Israel, those that came long before, those of us here, now, or those whose souls have not yet been realized in this world. I have not felt so close to the way we must have felt at Sinai as I did since the day I emerged from the mikveh for the first time -- and maybe not even then.  On that occasion, I only tasted in the water and the air what Peoplehood could mean -- and then, atop Masada, my connection to my People was realized. 

I have been transformed.

Then, one year and one day after Keithen's bar mitzvah, I was able to daven with a friend at the Kotel with Women of the Wall.  I have to admit it was a little intimidating.  As the women gathered at the back of the women's section,  some wearing tallitot wrapped like scarves around necks, others worn with tzitzit in front in defiance of the rules laid down at the Kotel (the defiance of which can mean an arrest and criminal charges) I watched nervously as two police officers faced us.  One police officer, a woman, had a video camera and taped us as we began to daven. 

If that didn't make me nervous enough, I also I felt out of sorts -- I brought a siddur from the apartment, but it was all in Hebrew and, as I have learned since being in Israel, only in North America do we all use the same siddur or have someone call out pages number (smile).  I muddled along, until my friend arrived and shared with me a siddur with an English translation which helped me stay on track with the Hebrew.

But then, we came to the Shema and then the Amidah.  As the voices of the women blended and harmonized, so too did the volume of the prayer from the other side of the mechitza trying to drown us out.  A man started to scream, and though we couldn't see him or what he was doing, we heard commotion.  I suddenly felt more secure as the police officer stood on a chair to video tape the disruption and others opened the mechitza and went to the men's side.  The objections didn't come only from the men, though -- even one woman confronted us verbally.

The prayers of longing, praise and thanks took on a whole new meaning as here, in Eretz Israel, it was clear I -- we -- were not wanted in the form we came in, giving praise and thanksgiving to God from heart to blood to lungs to windpipe to vocal cords. Surely they could see that we, too, were made in God's image?

The protest to my(our) voices did not distract me as I thought it would.  To my surprise, it crystallized my prayers. I opened my mouth wider, and let prayer come forth with everything in me and around me as I prayed as a Jew, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, sister, friend.  If only those who cannot find room at the Kotel for all of the Jewish people praying in peace  knew that they were making our prayers stronger and sweeter and more harmonious for God than they could have been otherwise, perhaps they would have rethought their tactics.  

And, for the second time in three days, I cried.  

So, what could be the third thing that made my cry since coming to Israel?  

Keithen, who initially did not want to come on this trip, who has been questioning everything about God (including God's existence, as is normal, I suppose) surprised us this last Shabbat.  He's been singing prayers here and there for a few days, and then, suddenly, though he's known the liturgy forever, he finally said, "I want to lead Kiddush for Shabbat".  One year and one week after his bar mitzvah, he did it all, and did it flawlessly: lit the candles, made Kiddush, led us in washing hands and Motzi, sitting at the head of the table.  Larry and I looked at each other across candles set aglow by more than matches, the flames magnified and reflected by the tears in our eyes and rolling down our faces. 

Keithen, after letting us place our hands on him and accepting our invocation of God's blessing  (a parent's greatest privilege), kissed us and drew us into one of his fabulous group hugs.  Now that's a Shabbos.

With love, 

Laurelle (aka Rebbetzin 'Relle)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Summer School

[This is a modified and reposted item from much earlier today.]

Hi, everyone, and Shavua Tov [ a good week] to you all!

Of course you know why there hasn't been a post since July 4th: classes began, and school days have run from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a mid-afternoon break for a walk to the apartment and dinner, after which it's another hike back to the Shalom Hartman Institute and return for the evening lecture.

It's difficult to imagine how the text scholars, historians, military advisors, political commentators, poets, and others from whom I have been learning manage to make the days pass so swiftly. Each effortlessly demonstrated the same high level of scholarship, humour, and utter devotion to the human dimension of their fields. At no moment did I ever feel that anything they were teaching, however abstract it may have seemed initially -- was even a single degree separated from the concerns of my professional and personal lives. Frankly, that's been a major source of the exhaustion at day's end: what they are teaching spans concerns of pulpit, community, family, and citizenship.

Afternoons last week were intense. Our teacher was Aviva Zornberg, one of the most extraordinary teachers I have ever been privileged to hear. Her topic: "Women Lost and Found" -- a study of how three biblical texts about women and their roles revealed unexpected insights into the nature of their longing to live in the presence of God. The classes took us from century to century, across Jewish sects and denominations -- reflections from rationalists and mystics, modern and ancient commentaries, and even from modern literary critics and essayists, philosophers, and seekers -- not all of them Jewish.

It was not the texts that were difficult, it was the vulnerability we all seemed to experience as we pored over the pages while Aviva linked each brilliant illumination of the text to the next. We read classical commentaries, hasidic texts, materials from Kabbalah, philological insights, ancient law, psychology, and matters of Jewish social and ethical history. Just when you thought she couldn't top what she had said a moment earlier, Aviva  pulled still more rabbis [I said rabbis] out of her literary magician's hat.

Everything fit together so elegantly. I suppose the price of such a steady stream of deeply moving insights is that you are left emptied and in need of more time to think about what she has taught. Like the writer of that song about Don McLean's "Vincent" -- remember it?: "Killing Me Softly"? -- Aviva's guided tour of the texts were utterly compelling reflections on the experience of life and the convoluted, entangled ways in which we  respond to each other under the weight of love and conflicting certainties about our "place" in each other's life. While the focus was utterly inescapably about the experience of women, I believe we all felt elevated to have such a nuanced glimpse into the struggle to attain  love,dignity, and community.

After each class, I found myself unable to leave the building without a break to refocus on the sky, the hills, the trees filled with lemons, oranges, olives and pomegranates and shrubbery bursting with more varieties of flowers that I could catalog.. In fact, on the second afternoon of Aviva's class, I was so lost in thought that I could not find my way back to the apartment and had to call Laurelle to be my GPS for the day.

I couldn't believe it when the first week ended and I found myself wishing for one more day with each of these memorable teachers.

Meanwhile, Laurelle and Keithen have found their own way to attain the bliss of contented exhaustion while I am in classes. One day they volunteered to search the massive illegal dump of  "rubble" created by the Moslem authorities when they bulldozed emergency exits for their underground place of worship at the Temple Mount. The bulldozers literally destroyed two thousand-year-old, irreplaceable archaeological treasures. But through a bit of good fortune, the destroyed materials were traced and an archaeological project funded to save whatever could be extracted from the vast mounds. Yes, Laurelle and Keithen found some archaeologically-significant items -- Herodian marble and other goodies -- that delighted the project supervisors -- but no samples to bring home!

Other days they visited the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and went back for another immersion in the Machane Yehuda market. One afternoon we arranged for a young yeshiva student from Canada to serve as a companion for Keithen, taking him to an Israeli movie theatre where he watched the latest Transformers movie in 3D with Hebrew subtitles while Laurelle explored still more of the Old City and revisited some interesting shops. Yet another day was devoted to a visit to the largest shopping mall in Israel.

It's late -- Shabbat ended hours ago. We had a lovely afternoon with a rabbinical colleague and Patti Cohen and Arthur Blank following services at Shira Hadasha, a modern Orthodox congregation that has created a remarkable new spiritual community in Jerusalem -- home to Orthodox, Conservative, Hasidic and Reform Jews singing so powerfully that it seemed to create a unique space within the crowded congregation. I recognized perhaps fifty Conservative and Reform rabbis in attendance, including Ismar Schorsch, retired head of the Jewish Theological Seminary in  NYC, one of my own rabbinical school teachers whom I hadn't seen in 35 years, and a large number of scholars and rabbis whom I recognized because of their startling resemblance to their book jacket photographs.

I owe you a more detailed look at several other places:  the City of David excavation now open to the public, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Shabbat Chattan [Sabbath honouring the groom from the Haifa wedding we attended and at which I was privileged to have an unexpected role in the ceremony] -- how are we going to have enough time to share all this before we return?  

Let me share just a couple of moments to which I want to return: moments of spontaneous laughter and tears. They've occurred more than once. Laurelle and I cried when we reached the plateau at Masada at sunrise. Laurelle wept -- not only that we made it up the Snake Path, but that we were really there. At the wall, in the City of David excavation as our guide pointed to hillside cave-tombs and said: "This is likely where the Davidic line were buried." In the hurly-burly of the Machane Yehuda market, walking through the Shrine of the Book, examining wedding garments and ritual objects from a dozen Jewish cultures across time at the Israel Museum. It has been very very moving to be here, my friends.

Laughter as we talked with new immigrants from the U.S. who had come for a summer and ended up saying they couldn't go back -- and didn't.  Laughing as we rocked our way uphill wearing our Sketcher Shape-ups and realized how much more difficult it was than wearing simple sandals (no wonder the ancient Israelites left the invention of MBT-styled footgear for a later millenium.

I'm at the limit of what I can do tonight. Don't forget that we really are thinking of you, hoping your summer is rewarding, and feeling grateful that you are with us at least in words and occasional photos when we figure out how to upload some more.

Again, have a good week, and check back soon -- the gap between postings won't be as long!


Rabbi Larry