Monday, April 16, 2018

Our First Day In Israel

It is hard to believe that it has been nine years since we were last in Israel. Being here in anticipation of Yom Ha’atzmaut - Israel Independence Day, Israel’s 70th birthday, is invigorating.

After the normal endless flight to arrive in “Ha’aretz” (The Land), we met up with our group in Herzliya. The last time I had spent time in Herzliya was in the late 1970’s. Then it was Israel’s Beverly Hills. Luxury condos  and homes. Israel’s first golf courses. The home of wealthy Israeli’s and long term visitors. Today Herzliya is a hub in “Start-Up Israel.” Computer companies abound. The streets are full of commuters. Change comes even to the enclaves.

After dinner and a good night’s sleep, at least for me, we headed up the coast and a bit inland to Pardes Hana.

At Shabbat services Friday night in Albuquerque, we began by singing Eli Eli. While the music was written by the iconic Israeli singer, Naomi Shemer, the words were by the poet and hero, Chana Senesh. Senesh lived in Israel during WWII and the Shoah. She, along with other members of the the Haganah, parachuted behind Nazi lines to try and rescue at least some of Europe’s Jews. She was captured, tortured and killed by the Nazis. Not only does she live on through her poetry but, through this village named in her memory and the incredible organization there, Nevei Michael.

Nevei Michael is a home, school, and crisis center for Israeli children, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, from the most severely broken homes. Some were victims of abuse. Others, had mothers who were murdered by their fathers or fathers murdered by their mothers with the murderer now in jail. Nevei Michael provides them not only the basics, food, clothing, and shelter, but life skills, self-esteem, parenting models to break the cycle of violence , and most importantly, love. Outside of the school building is this sign:

My translation goes like this: “We believe that every child has the power, to learn to be self-aware (open) and to go be strong. We work to identify and cultivate the strengths and skills unique to every child. Thus, at the conclusion of his/her studies, s/he will graduate with values and be well grounded, and will see him/herself in the best possible way.”

Hava and her daughter Rachel have worked for decades and have seen the success of their children. Some have become professionals, others laborers, but each has become a mensch.

Of course, they treated us with the same kindness they show the children in their care. From their limited budget they set out food and drink for us.

Leaving Pardes Chana we continued north to two places of Jewish resistance, Zichron Yaakov and Atlit. Zichron was the home of the Aaronson family who established a spy ring in WWI to help the British oust the Ottoman Empire from Palestine. Ironically, at Atlit the British established a detention camp to imprison Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi and post-Nazi Europe.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel in the mystical city of Tzvat in time for a beautiful view of the holy mountain Meron and a pre-dinner nap.

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