Last week, I was lucky enough to join the HUC students on an overnight tiyul (trip), to the North of Israel. Now if you've ever seen a map of the Middle East, you might think that was not the best place in the world to be in these tumultuous times, but rest assured we were and are safe, and lucky to be in a peaceful place compared to what the people of Syria have to deal with. That being said, there are always plans in place in case something does happen here, and we have a whole network of people to make sure we can get out of harm's way if need be.
We left early Wednesday morning to get to our destination, the banks of the Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, a large lake in the northeast corner of Israel. The purpose of the trip was to get a big picture experience of the first Jewish settlers of Palestine (later Israel), and their connection to the land. We saw several different important sites including Tel Hai, the site of the first Arab-Jewish conflict in the area now known as Israel in the 1920s. We went to the site of a Kvutzat Kinneret, an agricultural school for girls, and then to the Kinneret cemetery where the poet Rachel is buried, along with many other important pioneers and early Zionists. We met with modern pioneers as well including members of a group of social activists fighting for social justice and community involvement.
The one part of the trip that made me nervous, was our visit to a moshav (settlement) on the border of Lebanon. As we learned about the history of the area, our trip leader pointed out a few easily visible buildings on the other side of a small fence a few miles away--an active Hezbollah settlement. Needless to say, I was very happy to leave.
Overall, it was a great way to see the beginnings of Israel firsthand, and understand the connection to the physical land of Israel. Now Adam and his classmates will continue to build on their knowledge of modern Israel history in their Israel Seminar class. Though this trip was an educational experience for me, it was a good reminder that I am most certainly not in Rabbinical School, and would not choose to be. These students are so passionate and full of opinions and enthusiasm about Israel and Judaism, I can't keep up with the conversations...nor do I want to. But as I have said before, the future of Reform Judaism seems to be in capable hands.