Tel Aviv. Sights, Sounds, and then: Darkness – Guest Post by Michele Goonan

After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast we gathered at 9 AM, still a little disoriented and jet-lagged. Our guide, Ofer, stepped up to the plate despite a mix-up in our program and presented us with hats, maps and journals as we embarked on our journey through Tel Aviv. 

We began in Rabin Square where the prime minister was assassinated on November 4, 1995. This event immediately reminded me of JFK’sassassination. Both events changed their respective countries forever. 

The emotions felt by all of us were comparable to my visit to Dallas’ Book Depository. 

After some reflective time at the sight we began to explore Tel Aviv. We walked and walked and walked up Rothschild Blvd experiencing the ‘White City’ architecture style. 

After meandering through some lovely neighborhoods, we had some time to (walk down Shenkin Street – home of cafes where the poets and writers would gather) – shop in Shenkin’s artsy shops. And we walked some more. 

Lunch was on our own at Sarona Market which reminded me of Chelsea Market in New York City. Each of us experienced different culinary delights. I ate at a Thai restaurant and passed the Irish pub on the way back to the bus. 

After lunch we returned to the hotel for a much needed rest. Typically I can’t be still for too long while traveling so I ventured out on my own and went to the beach. I had fun watching the surfers and families enjoying the shores of the Mediterranean. 

I could not believe I was really here. Visiting Israel has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl and read ‘Exodus.’  I did have visions of Paul Newman rescuing me. 

Our evening activity began as we headed toward the Na L’ga’at theater for dinner and a show. The group was a bit nervous upon entering since this establishment is run by hearing and visually impaired individuals. After choosing our meals from the menu, we were asked to put all our electronic devices and belongings in a locker. 

The tension mounted as we were led into the dining room in small groups. Our waitress led us through a pitch black tunnel as we held onto each other’s shoulders for dear life. As we got to our seats we began to relax – but the blackness was complete. We all thought our eyes would adjust and we would begin to see shadows, but that never happened. Pouring water was a challenge. Once the food arrived we were chatting away and thoroughly enjoyed dinner. 

After dessert, we held onto each other to leave the dining area. It took quite awhile to adjust to the onslaught of light. We had a short lesson in sign language and then entered the theater. 

All the actors were hearing impaired, sight impaired or both. Some have spent their entire lives in total silence and darkened. While watching the performance, we laughed, we cried, we discovered that despite differing abilities we all have the same desires and dreams. None of us can forget this experience and being able to go on stage and share the newly baked bread was a true blessing for us all, bonding our group even more. 

On a side note, I went way over my allotted Weight Watchers Points and walked 13,597 steps according to my FitBit. I can’t wait to see what Friday has in store for us!

Shalom from Israel!

(All photos by Rabbi Sharon Sobel)

“For the sake of Zion, I will not remain silent.” Remembering Yitzchak Rabin.

Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination. Rabin’s legacy is legendary: a military hero, who served twice as Prime Minister of Israel, Nobel Peace Price Winner and leader extraordinaire.

He understood, as was stated by his dear friend Shimon Peres at this week’s 19th Annual Memorial Rally held in support of bringing about a peace agreement, that it was better to have a “cold peace than a hot war.” Rabin signed the Peace Treaty with Jordan’s King Hussein in 1994. That same year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with then-Israeli-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat. (Side note: a second Memorial Rally will be held on Saturday evening on the theme of “Tolerance”. The speaker will be Israeli President Reuven Rivlin who is fighting against the growing racism and intolerance in the State of Israel).

The prophet Isaiah said: “For the sake of Zion, I will not remain silent. For the sake of Jerusalem, I will not rest.” (Isaiah 62:1) Rabin fought tirelessly on behalf of his beloved Zion. He worked endlessly to ensure that all peoples in Jerusalem and her surrounding neighbors could live in peace and harmony.

Yitzchak Rabin
Yitzchak Rabin

Even 19 years later, his tragic murder leaves us with many questions: would we be any closer to peace now if he were still alive? Would he have been able to act as a stabilizing influence on a region with a growing sense of fundamentalism? Would the disasterous events of this past summer’s war in Gaza and the continuous acts of terror still be taking place?

The two terrorist attacks in Jerusalem this past week leave us feeling shaky and uncertain. How do we secure Israel and her people while finding our way toward a just and lasting peace at the same time?

Shimon Peres has inherited Yitzhak Rabin’s mantle. He too speaks the language of the prophet Isaiah. Like Rabin, he neither remains silent nor rests. (Read the text of Peres’ speech at the 19th Memorial Rally here:)

But this not enough. If Rabin’s legacy is to be an enduring one, if Rabin’s murder is not to be in vain, we too must not remain silent. We too must find a way to speak out for a peaceful and just solution. We too must work tirelessly until the terror is no more, the guns are silent and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4)

If God Would Go On a Sick Leave: A Poem of Peace

By Rabbi Zoë Klein

Nowhere is there more prayer.
The Nuns at the Holy Sepulchre.
The faithful at Al Aqsa Mosque.
The worshippers at the Wall.
The call to prayer at dawn and dusk
Warbling from the citadels.
The church bells,
The Persian trills,
The passion spilled over texts
From every major/minor religious sect.

Nowhere is there more prayer than Jerusalem,
Thanks be to God, Hamdilala, Baruch Hashem.
And yet,
I’m starting to think that it’s You and not them,
God, what’s the point of prayer?

If there’s nowhere where
There’s more prayer,
And terror reigns
Then, Who’s to blame?

If suddenly, without a whisper goodbye,
Jesus, Allah, Adonai,
The three men they admire most
All took the last train for the coast,

And the Moslems got up from their knees
And the Christians put down their rosaries
And the Jews stayed their hands from kissing
Their mezuzahs,
And everyone looked up,
And realized something’s missing…

God is missing.
Stop the praying! No One’s there,
They’d arrange a party to search everywhere.
They’d look for God
But there’d be no Presence
In Holy Books or stars and crescents
Or steeples and crosses.
People’d be at a loss,
Is He ever coming back?

They’d be so distraught,
Their searching for naught,
There’d be nothing on high
So they’d turn to on low,
There’d be nothing above
So they’d turn to below,
And they’d finally see there,
In the face of the other,
A semblance of sister,
The eyes of a brother,
They’d turn and they’d lean
Upon one another.

You see, every group can’t believe that they’re the ones chosen,
Every group can’t believe that the Holy Land’s owed them,
Sometimes faith in You, God,
Builds insurmountable walls,
And everyone falls.
Everyone falls.

How wise are the secularists for whom the dead aren’t martyred
But, quite plainly, murdered…

This might sound like an absurd,
ungodly thing to say,
A truly heretical supplication to pray,
(I say this only out of the deepest respect)
But if for a few days, God, You’d just give it a rest,
If You’d take a sick leave and just go away
And let Israel work this out without You in the way,

God, for that kind of peace,
You’re a small price to pay.
(Rabbi Zoë Klein)