Thursday, January 15, 2009

Final Post- Rabbi Barry Gelman

This is the final segment of my blog of the JNF Rabbinic Mission to Israel. I am writing from the plane heading to Newark airport. I am very tired, having slept only 8 hours over the last 2 night.
Our final stops on the trip were in Sderot. We visited with a woman who is suffering anxiety and stress from the thousands of Kassam rockets that have hit Sderot. She was personally affected when a kassam hit her brother's house while her immobile mother was trapped in bed. . She, and many others are unable to function normally due to the stress. She too welcomed our visit and thanked us for coming at this time.

Our final stop was at the Heder Yeshiva in Sderot. I was so taken by the inner strength of the students there. They live under constant treat of kassam attacks, but, nonetheless have stayed at the yeshiva. They are full of spirit and pride in the State of Israel. Hey all serve in the IDF and have a great love of the land.
The students greeted us with open arms and wide smiles. We danced and sang on the roof of the Yeshiva in open defiance of Hamas and their missiles. We sang songs of faith and hope.
I am always taken when I visit a Hesder Yeshiva. The combination of Torah study and army service combines two values that I hold so dear, Torah and the religious significance of the State of Israel. by the sacrifice and maturity illustrated by young Israelis. We also met with soldiers from non-traditional backgrounds. They were equally committed to defending Israel and have a deep love of the Jewish people.

One of the highlights of the trip was having the opportunity to spend time with and get to know the group of 20 American rabbis who comprised the mission. I was inspired and humbled to be with a group of spiritual leaders who see themselves as not only part of the American Jewish community, but as part of, and responsible to Am Yisrael, all Jews. While we have varied backgrounds and opinions on important matters of Jewish life and community, we came together to bring a message of solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Israel. We all cried together as we met the wounded soldiers and their families and we were all equally motivated by them and by the students and soldiers we met.

We all went with the hope that we could provide a small degree of encouragement to those we would meet. I believe that we did. I also know that we were spiritually and emotionally moved by the people we met.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on this mission and to my congrregation for understadning that it was important for their rabbi to represent them. I thank all of the sponsors for supporting us and Rabbi Asher Lopatin for conceiving of the mission and for taking care of so many of the details. I also thank the rabbis of Tzohar for providing support and guidance to make the mission a success. A special thank you to Frumie who works with Tzohar. Without her efforts, we could not have done this.

To sum up as to why we went: One of the rabbis put it best when he was asked by the passport control officer in Israel: "what is the purpose of your visit," his reply was: "family."

Am Yisrael Chai!

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