I have been to Israel more times than I can count. Tobi and I are in Israel now anticipating the arrival of the B’nai Torah group on Sunday.
We are currently in Tzfat, waiting to leave for Kabbalat Shabbat services. I know that there have been some rockets and military activity in the “south” and we’ll learn more about that after Shabbat.
In the meanwhile, predictably, Shabbat here is descending with its usual sense of peace and beauty. We are always aware of a great deal of conflict in the Mideast and within Israel, and this conflict and its conversations has effected both concern for and loyalty to Israel. Unfortunately, the issues of the conflict become the only issues to which so many are exposed to. And so, the bulk of the articles we read now are about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the the impact of settlements, and the dangers of Hamas and extreme terrorist organizations.
I don’t wish to be pollyannaish or another tourist voice that reports from Israel saying “you can’t believe how normal everything feels.” We all know that Israel is facing immense challenges. But I do want to relay two powerful feelings from this beautiful day in Tzfat and hiking on Mt. Meron, which is a few minutes from the city.
Tzfat is a city of mystics, spiritual seekers, and religiously observant types. It has very active street life with art and food and commerce. It is so deeply rooted in Judaism. Living outwardly with Jewish expression is a natural dimension of life here. Mt. Meron is a beautiful place, mentioned in the Bible and featuring archaeological sites from the mishnaic period of two thousand years ago.
In this area “up north” – like so much of Israel – one feels both the natural and national dimensions of Judaism, and a powerful attraction to the beauty, spirit, and vitality of our land and our people. We are so happy to be here.
I’ll be in touch…
Rabbi David Steinhardt
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l