On Saturday night, I will board a plane to Israel alongside members of our community. I can’t wait to get on that plane. Traveling to Israel is more a pilgrimage than anything else. For generations our people have embarked on this very mission, even if modes of transportation have clearly evolved over time. They walked, rode camels and horses, came by train. The goal was always the same, however, to see and experience the beauty of the Holy Land.
Our people would journey to the Temple in Jerusalem to make offerings amid our festivals: Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. They would come carrying what they had and maybe some hope. They would take in the grandeur of Jerusalem’s rolling hills, a city bustling with activity and the majesty of the Temple before them. With sandals on their feet, they would reconnect with family, with faith, even with themselves.
Times have changed. We’ve changed. Israel has certainly changed. Yet the impetus to pack up and see the Holy Land has remained a constant for our people throughout history. We go there to touch it, to feel it, to walk its ancient roadways, to take it in and to allow ourselves to be changed by it all. We go there because something deep in our self feels compelled to go. We go there to find God and/or find ourselves.
I can’t wait to get on that plane. It’s been a long year: obligations, stress, new beginnings, long to-do lists and of course the harrowing state of our world what with its abounding prejudice and proliferation of hate. You go to Israel to replenish your soul and to remove Israel from the pessimism of the nightly news and those who can only deny or denigrate Israel. My plan is to take in Israel as fully as I can and to share the experience with you, through sermons, social media, pictures and more. My plan is to let Israel change me, challenge me and move me (as it always does).
What a gift that we live in a time when Israel is real. We can go there. We can wrestle with it up close. So many were never able. Your grandparents and mine could hardly imagine a modern State of Israel, this place of democracy and modernization and technology. What a gift that we have access to it today. As imperfect and ever-complex as Israel is, it’s a blessing that we live precisely now and can experience it for ourselves. That should not be lost on any of us.
I pray that it as a safe and joyous trip for us. I pray for goodness and prosperity in Israel. I pray that we continue to fight for an Israel open fully to all souls and every brand of Judaism, a place of true fairness and ingathering, as it was always intended.
May the One who makes peace in the high heavens, make peace for all of us and for all of Israel. Amen.