“Reflections on a Not Too Distant Past” by Linda Marquette-Kleiman
Just a few short weeks ago I packed for my first trip to Israel, filled with anticipation and questions. Would I feel anything different than I would on my many trips to Europe or the Caribbean? If nothing else I would see a new country, buy something for my family and enjoy the sights. In retrospect going to Israel with an empty palette allowed me to soak in everything that the trip presented …physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am composing these thoughts while looking out at our lake in the Muskoka’s…remembering stepping off the plane, greeted by Rabbi Yossi, picking up our phones then heading north to Tiberias. I did not sleep one wink on the 11 hour flight or the 3 hour bus ride up to Tiberias. We had a beautiful first night overlooking the Sea of Galilee…good food, wine, music and a group of highly enthusiastic Jewish women. Dancing in circles became our daily routine!
Our group of 10 women from Beth Torah gradually got to know one another over the course of our trip as we moved on to Tsfat, Masada, the Dead Sea, rafting on the Jordan river and dinner overlooking the Judean hills. What a magnificent view
Here we were in historically significant places connecting our past with the present and bringing home this link to our future…our children. There was a sense of awe standing alone looking out at the desert. Such a rugged and unforgiving land but look what Israel has accomplished with this once desolate and infertile land. Every day we would gather at the hotel or in Jerusalem for a variety of speakers or entertainment and discuss topics. It was highly entertaining, interesting and thought provoking.
Shabbat was truly where everything changed for me. I was having an amazing time with all the sights, lectures, and shopping… but Friday was different. The first time I went to the Kotel, I was fascinated by the history but not really feeling what many before me had felt. Friday night was emotionally charged in a way that one cannot really describe. I made my way over to the wall where the men and women are divided…the men swaying and singing and praying. I could barely breathe. This is love, this is devotion, this is Israel. I made my way back to our group and we began to sing. Again I felt my heart being squeezed. The tears tumbled down my cheeks, even more so when young Israeli soldiers joined in our unified songs of Shabbat and Haktivah. I was feeling proud to be a part of something bigger and indescribably emotional and spiritual. It was the most beautiful way to begin Shabbat. Dinner was fantastic. I had 2 lovely Israeli hosts. These families opened their homes and made me feel welcome. How could they have made this trip any better!? I went with 9 interesting, kind, funny and caring women, all with different perspectives and different journeys. As we sat at the back of the bus each time (we are way too polite, Canadians eh?) we talked, slept and joked.
What did the trip mean? I hope to bring my love and enthusiasm and infuse it in all parts of my life. I have a new appreciation for my life and family but it also extends to my community and Israel. The old saying…don't put off tomorrow what you can do today is especially true when we think of supporting Israel. When we pray and say "next year in Jerusalem" let us hope and pray that there will always be a next year and that there will always be a Jerusalem.