An Ending…and A Beginning

In many ways, it ended where it all began. Our Family Tour group started the morning at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial and Museum. Needless to say, it was a very emotional morning as we were masterfully led through the museum by Yoram, our guide. We began by walking into the museum and gazing upon a film – actually, a collection of films edited together – depicting Jewish life in Europe on the eve of the Nazi rise to power. These home movies were of individuals and families and school groups just enjoying normal life. And then we turned to walk to to the exhibit – actually, Yoram said, “We literally turn our backs on them, and their way of life. We will now immerse ourselves in the world that they didn’t know would be their future.”

Yad Vashem, in a controversial move, ended the formal museum experience by steering visitors into a room dedicated to the birth of the modern State of Israel. There are really two camps- one camp that states that the western world was experiencing a simultaneous refugee problem and guilt over not interceding to assist the Jews. Thus, the solution was to establish a State for the Jews. There are others who argue that the mechanics were already in motion to build a State and that Israel would have come about even without the tragedy of the Holocaust. By including a room about Herzl and Ben Gurion and the Declaration of the State at the end of the exhibit, it is clear where the Museum stands.

Which is why I opened the blog as I did above. We started our journey on day one with a visit to Independence Hall and now, on our last day, we end looking at, and discussing, the same images, speeches, and historical events.

We also spent some time at an Archaeological Dig, where the majority of our group got down and dirty with our history. In fact, we were excavating a cave dating to the days of Judah Maccabbee…and the Hanukkah story! Our amazing guide at this site helped us to understand the dig and what we accomplished today.

In all, the dig proved to be the ideal final stop on our tour before a celebratory dinner. The purpose of the dig, at least for volunteers like our group, is to help us connect with Jewish history in a tangible way. And that was a major part of the purpose of this tour: we have studied the history of our people, we have engaged with words of Torah that were lived in this land, we have celebrated holidays intended to (partially) connect the people to the land. And yet there was a disconnect for many of us. That disconnect, as a result of our directly touching the Land of Israel, is no more. We have immersed ourselves with Israel and Israeli culture and the ancient struggles and contemporary challenges of the State of Israel.

On our way to the airport, I offered this prayer, a reflection on our collective Sinai path through the winding ways of Israel. I include it below as a fitting conclusion to my own journaning through this trip. Our next posts will be written by members of the group as I share their reflections.

From the flight,


A prayer for our Journey Home

It was that kind of Israel day

When our feet were sore from walking;

When our eyes wanted to close;

When our heads were full-

Of information. Of questions.

When the sun painted the buildings gold,

When it rested on the mountains of the Golan or the Mediterranean Sea or the rooftops of Jerusalem.

And it was in that moment that I realized my trip had become a journey, a pilgrimage, to re-claim something I thought I lost or to take possession of what has always been intangible and is now to me important.

I breathed a sigh unheard by others, just for me, just my release.

I cried tears of joy and of sadness.

I laughed at jokes and at my companions.

We fought. We laughed. We grew.

They said that the trip would transform me.

And it has.

I have been impacted by the stories.

I have been inspired by the land.

I have been transformed by the encounters with others.

It was that kind of Israel day,

When the world was full of possibilities.

And I lowered my head and I lifted my eyes;

I thanked God for this amazing and beautiful life that has led me to this moment.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam, Shehechiyanu, Vekiyamanu Vehigiyanu Lazman Hazeh.

We praise You, God, who has given us life, who has given us health, and who enabled us to reach this very moment in our journey.

The view from the end of the Holocaust Memorial Museum's main exhibit. Looking down upon a beautiful and bright Israel.

The view from the end of the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s main exhibit. Looking down upon a beautiful and bright Israel.

The view from atop as our excavation begins!

The view from atop as our excavation begins!

Our last presentation of the tour, highlighting that the dig, and the tour, used the history of Israel (both the people and the land) to make modern Israel come alive. Our now tangible.

Our last presentation of the tour, highlighting that the dig, and the tour, used the history of Israel (both the people and the land) to make modern Israel come alive. Our Judaism…is now tangible.

Published in: on June 17, 2015 at 7:30 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. ……..and like wise Israel will never be the same. As you have with each footstep, with each laughter, with each prayer, with each breath given the land yet another affirmation that it is real what we feel for her. That the land can go on because of the transformative effect it has had one you of rebirth.

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