We just returned from a spectacular week in Israel.
A friend of ours (from here in the States) celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of their son by traveling to Israel. Many of their family members joined them, and my wife and I, along with some other friends also joined for a week in the holy land. For my wife, it was the first time returning to Israel since her year in Seminary over 15 years ago. For myself, I had been there a few years ago when our shul went on a mission to bring chizuk to those living in Israel.
The week was simply incredible, and I'm not just saying that because we somehow found a way to leave the kids home for the week. We arrived in Israel and went to visit some dear friends who have recently moved to Ramot Bet Shemesh. We then visited some relatives who are buried in Israel.
We stayed in Yerushalayim, but throughout the week, the ba'al simcha arranged for some tiyulim (trips). I had never been up north before, and was overtaken by the beauty of the Golan. In my reading of modern Israeli history, I was always aware of the strategical importance of the Golan, as well as the important battles that were fought there. But in my mind's eye, after reading all of the stories about the fighting in the bunkers, I somehow imagined this small rocky mountain range. I was totally shocked to find out just how large and beautiful the area actually is. We bought wine there. Yum. We also visited Teveria and the magnificent Kineret.
On other tiyulim, we also visted "the Gush" (gush Eztion), an equally beautiful area. We bought wine there. Yum. We also went to visit Chevron. It was my third time visiting Chevron in the past 5 years and while it's depressing to see a holy city that is literally a war zone, I am amazed at how much has changed over these five years. The yeshiva, new buildings, new homes. Wow. I read how Jameel went with his son to the Mearas Hamachpela for his Bar Mitzvah -- I think we missed them by a few days. On the way back from Chevron, we had a "small" incursion on the road which B'H turned out to be nothing more than a minor accident. Although at the time, it felt more like an ambush. Maybe I'll share that story another time.
Speaking of the Bar Mitzvah, our friends had their son lain at the Kotel on Thursday morning. What an incredible experience. I had davened many times at the Kotel, but previously, I had always gone to daven vasikin (sunrise), which is obviously very early, and likewise, very quiet. What a surprise to see so many others also celebrating a bar mitzvah. People with drums and tambourines are signing and dancing, and men with shofars are escorting bar mitzvah boys to and from the Aron Kodesh. Our host asked me to daven for the amud that morning, and standing before the wall, with so much simcha going on around you is truly a memory that will be forever burned into my brain.
After a lovely Shabbat in Yerushalayim (and another truly memorable Friday night at the Kotel), the wife and I headed to the airport (yes, where we bought more wine) for our trip home. What an incredible experience (the week in israel, not the wine purchasing).
Ordinarily, I wouldn't simply hijack Jameel's wonderful blog just to document one of my vacations. However, I can't help but share how wonderful an experience it was to share in a simcha in the land of Israel. To visit a land that we all feel connected to. To spend money (mostly on wine) in Israel and support the economy there. To see how even with all the politics and issues that we read about in the news every day, the country is bustling with energy, tourism, and life. It's wonderful.
I can't wait to go back.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael