Greetings from Tel Aviv! It's certainly a different city from Jerusalem and yet in so many ways it is utterly and consistently Israel. The differences could not be more dramatic! Take for example, the landscape—or should I say seascape. The beaches in Tel Aviv are gorgeous and we have had spectacular summer-like weather. There is a vibrancy in Jerusalem, but it is nothing like the energy, the construction and the youthful presence here in Tel Aviv. And yet, in these troubling days, there are similarities between the two cities in the conversations, attitudes and activities. As an example, we made plans with our cousin to spend time in a newly restored area of the city. Those plans had to be cancelled on Thursday as a large section of the city was closed off while police, soldiers and helicopters searched for a "suspicious vehicle." Although we made alternate plans and had a lovely day, it is emblematic of life in Israel. It is not something that we as North Americans can easily understand.
And then, we were once again preparing to welcome another Shabbat. What a gift in any city! We had previously notified our wonderful Reform congregation here in Tel Aviv, Beit Daniel, that we would like to attend erev Shabbat services. We were welcomed with audacious hospitality. As we all know, the world is getting smaller every day and we were not the only international guests at Beit Daniel! There was a group from Cleveland, OH who arrived on a bus. There were six people from Canada, several of whom we know from the World Union Board, who will also be delegates to the WZO Congress. Another delegate, URJ Board member and good friend, Tadd Schwab, arrived to meet us. And then, completely by surprise, dear friends from Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, PA walked into the sanctuary! Did I mention that there were several hundred Israelis, regular members of the community, also in attendance? It was a celebratory and joyful Shabbat. Rabbi Meir Azari and Rabbi Galia Sadan, great friends of WRJ, welcomed us. Shabbat services included joyful singing of familiar and new tunes and celebrations of all types. There was a meaningful and emotion-filled blessing for a young woman who is about to begin her Army service. What a time to think about sending your daughter to the Army! Yet, has there ever been a time that Israeli parents have NOT had to worry about this? Again, I think that we as North Americans cannot fully understand this. Following services, we (both Rabbis, several congregants, and the American and Canadian WZO delegates) were treated to a delicious dinner and incredible conversation. Israeli food is awesome, but a Shabbat evening of friendship and conversation is absolutely outstanding. We ranged from the history of Beit Daniel to the future of Reform Judaism in Israel! We inquired about the daily activities of the congregation and we shared where we work, study and travel. Of course, children and grandchildren entered the conversation! In many ways, our conversations could occur anywhere in the world. In other ways, there are topics that engage us as Reform Jews that only occur in Israel. It was a beautiful Shabbat! Todah rabah to our new and old friends and generous hosts. Tomorrow we head back to Jerusalem for the WZO Congress, taking with us the warmth of the beautiful beaches and our brothers and sisters in Tel Aviv.