“So… where were we and what were we doing this time last week?”
Bruce and I have had these time checks routinely throughout the days since our recent return from Israel. It is as though we are reluctant to allow any balloons in our bouquet of Israeli memories to float away. However, the poignant reminiscences from our trip we were so proud to share with a group of Temple Am Echad friends will always remain with us and shape our lives going forward.
From my perspective, this trip encompassed a unique blend of historic, cultural and personal elements. Citing the many memorable experiences are too numerous to mention in this blog, but a definite highlight for me was the visit to the Western Wall on my birthday; this day could not have been more special. While inserting written messages from family and friends into The Wall, my emotions were high. I had thoughts of my parents, who always wanted to take this trip and were unfortunately unable to do so. I felt confident they were both with me, accompanied by other departed loved ones, as I prayed for good health, joyous and peaceful times for all. I was joined by Wendy Weinstock, also celebrating her birthday on that Wednesday. She and I shared a special bond that I’m sure we’ll always cherish, as we were both overcome with emotion, celebrating this very sacred and heartwarming experience together.
In addition to visiting many other historic/spiritual sites, we were afforded unique opportunities to interact with various diverse groups of Israeli residents. Among those venues, we visited a high school and were inspired by the optimistic comments of its students, aspiring to achieve lofty academic pursuits and professions. We also visited a residence/school for students in Jerusalem, The Dr. Israel Goldstein Youth Village, where we engaged in enlightened discussion with several students and administrators. We also went to The Yad LaKashish facility, where we saw senior citizens at work, engaged in various crafts and related activities.
Our last evening in Israel, we were invited to attend Shabbat Services at a synagogue, officiated by Rabbi Alona. This meaningful experience was augmented by our gracious invites to congregants’ homes for Shabbat dinner. In addition to the overwhelming hospitality our hostess Erin provided, Bruce and I were pleased to share this event with Rabbi Bellush and Arnie, as well as Rabbi Alona. The dinner was wonderful, only surpassed by the engaging conversation; we all seemed reluctant to return to our waiting bus.
Since our return, some congregants have inquired about how “we all got along.” Many indicated they had been looking at our shared photos, and noted the good times we appeared to be sharing. I can assure you our camaraderie was sincere and seemed to be felt by everyone. Virtually every meal began with two or three couples, with the table size eventually increasing, at times, at least double-fold as we progressed. Everyone looked out for each other as we navigated steep, rocky terrain and we shared both laughter and tearful moments during our trip. I feel trip participants have forged meaningful, everlasting bonds.
I was consistently impressed by Rabbi Bellush throughout this trip. Her objective was clearly to maximize the experience for all of us, providing her insights throughout our touring, in addition to her relevant spiritual input, and thoughtfulness. While our Israeli tour guide, Zvi, was quite informative, our Rabbi ably complemented his narratives and perspectives; the trip would not have been the same for me without the involvement of our Rabbi.
I am challenged to sort through our photos, and abridge them into a personal album. In fact, as I complete one round with the goal of paring down, the amount of pictures I have included seems to increase! I think that sums up this trip for me fairly well – so many terrific memories I want to savor.
My heartfelt thanks go to all participants. I am hopeful our new special bonds are everlasting and can enhance our Temple Am Echad experience going forward. Shalom!