If you are on any kind of social media and are connected to me on Facebook or What’s App or Instagram, you probably know that I’m in Israel on the Global Connections Mission. I am always so happy to be in Israel, and want so much to share with you, in the actual and in the Facebook sense, how important and critical our connection to Israel is.
I come to Israel as often as I can, to reaffirm that connection, because it is vital to who I am as a person. I can’t really explain it, no more than I can explain my stubborn attachment to the Boston Red Sox or why I have absolutely no singing voice (although it doesn’t stop me from trying, to the regret of all within earshot.) These are all things that are just part of my make-up, my identity. For many of us in Greater MetroWest, our connection to Israel and to the Jewish people has real significance.
Over the last few days I’ve been struggling to write a blog post that would communicate what I am seeing and doing, as a way of sharing my enthusiasm. But what kept coming out was a travel itinerary that had lots of meaning for me, but would probably not mean much to you.
I realized yesterday that the important theme running through everything the mission has seen and done is conversation — intense, funny, challenging, educational, emotional conversation — between the New Jersey participants about our place in the Israeli narrative, and with us and Israelis about the same thing.
One of the most intense and unusual of these conversations happened not 200 yards from the Gush Etzion Junction, the scene of so much recent tragedy and senseless violence. We sat and spoke with Sami, a Palestinian raised in Bethlehem and educated in the United States, and Eliaz, a Jewish settler and poet from Gush Etzion. Sami and Eliaz shared their separate journeys yet came to the same conclusion that the only way forward is through continued dialogue.
We had home hospitality over Shabbat with friends from our partnership communities in Kibbutz Erez, Arad, Ofakim and Merchavim. All of us reported back lively conversations about elections, politics, and current events on both sides of the ocean. No solutions, but lots of conversations that lead to strengthened bonds. A shared Shabbat meal, a pleasant and peaceful tiyul (hike) on the Land, and everyone was refreshed and ready for the week ahead.
And it’s a good thing we rested! Yesterday we got to work reviewing the budgets for our Arad and Ofakim/Merchavim Partnership2Gether projects for next year. After twenty years of working together, we’ve re-imagined the equation. All of our projects must lead to results on both sides of the ocean, the “living bridge” component that creates meaning and investment for all. This was hard work, but the conversations were healthy, respectful, and robust. I walked away feeling that we were all listening to one another and that we were all heard, not easy to do in both Hebrew and English.
If you are interested in engaging in these kinds of Jewish conversations, please join us on any one of our upcoming missions — just click here to find out more. Whether it is to Israel or to Poland and Israel, to Ukraine this summer or to Cuba next fall, I can promise you conversations like the ones I’ve been having this week, but especially ones about what connects one Jew to another, because there is much more that unites us than divides us.
Even if you never come on a Federation mission, you can experience our global connections at home in New Jersey. If your synagogue or your day school works with one of our fantastic rishonim, you can be connected. If you come hear any of our Global Connections University speakers, you can be connected. If you care about increasing paths to Judaism for Israelis, learn more about the work of our Religious Pluralism committee and be connected.
And if your connection moves you to make a commitment to the Annual Campaign, make that commitment now, while you can double the impact of your new or increased gift — any new or increased gift made before May 4 will be matched by some of our most committed, connected donors.
The first step, though, is very simple: Only connect.
The rest will follow.
I look forward to conversations with all of you when I am back in New Jersey, but for now…
Shalom from Israel!