Back on U.S. soil. There was no time to write and little new to say when the Wednesday deadline arrived. As it is, this column was written by your faithful servant above 30,000 feet and is being sent to you from the Delaware House, the first wifi on my way home from Newark.
I flew from Eilat to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to join with about 75 Washingtonians for a Jewish Federation pre – General Assembly mission, co-chaired by our own Janyse and Bernie Weisz and including a half dozen other Beth El members. The opening session featured M.K. Dov Lipman (more on him below) and Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter Dalia who was an M.K. and now is Chairperson of the Yitzhak Rabin Center. Yesterday my “faces of Israel” group spent several hours in Gedera focusing on Ethiopian Jewry acculturation issues and successes, then a few hours in Holon, a working class city near Tel Aviv which was never a tour stop but has succeeded in remaking and rebranding itself in fascinating ways. While it is time for me to get back to work, the mission people stay on for more learning about Israel’s realities and its needs. Then they head to Jerusalem for Shabbat and then the G.A., one of the most important events on the communal calendar for decades now.
Israel faces many serious challenges, but it always has. As Ben-Gurion famously said, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.” Israel proves everyday the maxim,” if you wish it, it need not remain a dream.” Some of its actions may not sit right with me, but being there always inspires me. Dov Lipman told us a story that I won’t forget. As an 11 year old living in Kemp Mill, he went downtown to demonstrate outside the Soviet Embassy, part of the Soviet Jewry vigil whose forty year anniversary we recently commemorated. While at the demonstration, somebody gave him a sign to hold up. It said, “Free Yuli Edelstein.” Edelstein, you may recall, was one of the most prominent refuseniks whose imprisonment and struggle for freedom captivated a generation. Fast forward to nine years ago. Dov Lipman and his wife and kids are on a special El Al flight with a plane load of Americans who are making Aliyah. The pilot gives his usual informational talk as the plane is taxiing, but finishes with these words, “I am here to take you home!” Fast forward to last January, the Israeli elections. Lipman, a fairly recent immigrant and modern Orthodox rabbi living in our sister city Beit Shemesh, gets elected to the Knesset on the Yesh Atid ticket. He is the first American born rabbi ever elected! And, when he reports for the opening session, the Speaker of the Knesset is none other than Yuli Edelstein! How is that for the land of dreams?
We begin a new thread next week. Before that is our special Shabbat service honoring all those who help lead our minyanim; we also will call up for an aliyah Hazzan Klein and Rabbi Auster whose engagement has just been announced. Saturday night is our annual Gala; a few seats are still available for this our biggest fund and spirit raiser each year. And Sunday afternoon is the Maccabeats; their groupies have bought out all the seats we can fit in the building.
Before all that excitement, do have a good Thursday. Bill Rudolph