With the House impeachment of the American president, Israel facing its third election in less than a year, and the latest U.N. climate report predicting a dire future for the planet, readers might be struck by our story on a recent rabbis’ trip to Israel: It radiates a refreshing sense of normality.
The story recounts a six-day mission to Israel by eight Bay Area rabbis. Organized by the S.F.-based Israeli Consulate and the Northern California Board of Rabbis, and sponsored by the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies, the trip took the group from the meeting rooms of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to the campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva, from a get-together with a leading LGBTQ politician in Tel Aviv to a children’s indoor playground in the southern town of Sderot, built to provide a safe shelter from the Qassam rockets all too frequently fired from nearby Gaza.
They met with government leaders, Israeli Arabs, NGO directors and fellow rabbis from different denominations. They also spent time learning about how everyday Israelis live and think. Most interestingly, they toured the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza, seeing for themselves the hundreds of trucks bearing vital supplies heading into Palestinian territory.
It is comforting to see local spiritual leaders continue to engage deeply with Israel.
Although these rabbis had been to Israel before, some having lived there, our story describes the ways in which the trip was eye-opening, one that surely will inform their rabbinates and, ideally, deepen community understanding of the complicated circumstances in and around Israel.
In other words, this was a normal trip, undertaken with the highest of hopes and the best of intentions.
As we prepare to enter the third decade of this century, we find ourselves inhabiting an increasingly dangerous world. Aside from the crises of climate change, fraying democracy and a hyperpolarized nation, the Jewish people also face a nightmarish resurgence of anti-Semitism. Just last week, a brazen attack on a kosher market in Jersey City left several people in New Jersey dead, targeted simply for being who they are.
Given the times in which we live, no one can rest easy, but it is comforting to see local spiritual leaders continue to engage deeply with Israel, just as so many have done over the years. Grappling with questions of what it means to build and support a Jewish and democratic state is an essential part of our Jewish identity, and a mission that we at J. take most seriously.
We wish all of our readers a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.