Anton, our blogger from “Down Under”
What is our belief? What is our reality? Our day began with the posing of these questions. In putting these questions to us Charlie Harare challenged us to step outside our comfort zone to really try to find our true selves.
This challenge set the scene for what lay ahead of us for Day 2 of our journey. We visited the holy city of Tzfat, where we were given a tour of the women's mikvah and then given the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the pure cold waters of the men's mikvah. This immersion refreshed and renewed our energy. For many it opened the opportunity to a sense of relief from stress and life baggage – a new beginning.
Before we arrived at the mikvah, many men including myself, were reluctant to participate in this activity. Perhaps it was something too far outside our comfort zone, or perhaps there was the discomfort of stripping down in front of the other guys.
But Charlie had thrown out the challenge and as a group we embraced the challenge and realised the opportunity to do something special and new.
Having then had lunch and done some shopping, we boarded the bus and headed to Misgav Am, a kibbutz at the northern-most point of Israel. From this lookout we could see Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
And at this point we davened Mincha while hearing the Muslim call to prayer from Lebanon. The combination of contrasting sounds provided an eerie backdrop to the magnificent scenery around us and reminded us of the fragility of security confronted by Israel and Jewish people everyday.
We then listened to a local resident of the kibbutz providing his assessment of the current security situation. He made aliyah in 1961 and fought in each war since then. What was striking about this man's words was his clarity of thought. His world is black and white. He would not interfere with his neighbours right to live, but if they attack him and his kibbutz he will kill them. For him the decision for peace, is G-d's decision. Man's decision is only whether or not there will be a ceasefire.
Such clarity of thought and vision reminded me of the vision of Menachem Begin. This had been brought home to me by the Menachem Begin Centre in Jerusalem which I visited a few days ago. Begin's vision and plan was unwavering. It informed every step of his journey to become Prime Minister of Israel and in so doing made him a great leader of the Zionist movement.
Men such as this resident of Migav Av allow us Jews to live in the diaspora in the knowledge that Israel will exist forever. In the same way that chasidic and other frum Jews allow us non-religious Jews to be confident that notwithstanding our own practices, Judaism will live forever.
The question (and perhaps this forms part of Charlie's challenge) is whether that belief is enough or do we all need to take a greater responsibility in ensuring Jewish continuity.
That night over dinner we learnt that in a couple of days time, about a dozen of the men on the tour will be having their barmitzvahs despite being in their late 40s/early 50s. What better way is there of ensuring Jewish continuity. And then we celebrated being together through singing and dancing.
We started the day as a bunch of strangers from all over the world. We ended the day as a unified group of proud Jews.