I can’t believe summer has come and the time for our big adventure is finally here. You’re so lucky that you get to experience Israel for the first time at four and eight. I hope you will behave on the flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Please, watch, as many movies as you want, don’t kick the seat in front of you, try to sleep and be nice to daddy.
I am delighted to welcome you to Israel, a country that holds a piece of my heart. Israel is not only a holy place for Jews, but it is also a holy place for Christians and Muslims. All three major religions holiest places are in Israel. Daddy and I love Israel. You both have learned about Israel since infancy, we sing, pray and read about Israel. Not only does Israel hold deep meaning for your ancestors and Jews around the world, but also daddy and I fell in love in Israel.
When I was in High School I begged my parents to send me on a teen trip to Israel, just like you I had always dreamed of visiting the Holy Land. Zaddie talked Bubbie into letting me go. Zaddie and I succeeded and I got to go on a month long trip to Israel, and this is where the love story begins.
I met daddy while traveling to Israel on a high school trip 17 years ago. It was daddy’s 17th birthday, and we chatted the entire plane flight and fell in love with each other over the month of traveling. I wont give you all the details but daddy and I loved traveling by bus, sleeping under the stares, hiking, camel riding, learning about history, swimming, and floating in the Dead Sea. While I feel in love with the cuisine Daddy survived on pita and falafel. Daddy learned on this trip just how stubborn I am, when he challenged me to climb a sand dune… and of course I did it. Every afternoon we would share an ice cream treat. As dad and I fell in love and made plans to get married and one day have the two of you we really fell in love with Israel.
I know neither one of you have learned the intricacies of being in love but take my word for it,… it can be like a roller coaster with happiness, frightening times, and sometimes loosing your stomach. At the beginning of falling in love, part of the fun is being in love with love. Yet as the relationship depends, you peal back the layers and really learn about your partner’s flaws. I firmly believe that there is no meaningful relationship that doesn’t have flaws, and challenges that need to be explored.
Since my first trip to Israel in 2001, a lot has changed. I lived in Israel in 2005, 2006-2007 and have visited in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Throughout these trips I have watched Israel grow and develop. It’s amazing how many new building there are. The most dramatic difference in my relationship with Israel is probably me. Politically I have changed. I have become an adult, become a rabbi, and learned to listen to all sides of a situation.
My relationship with Israel is more complicated now than food, sun, culture, religion and vacationing. Living in Israel taught me the complex divides between the ultra orthodox (who run the country) and the reform/conservative Jews like us. It is a hard struggle to continue to love Israel while being angry about women’s rights, and liberal Jewish issues. Reading articles, visiting the Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Susya, and engaging in dialog with Palestinians has tempered my once blind love for our Jewish state.
I feel so privileged to be able to bring you both to Israel, a family trip here has always been my dream. I am especially excited you get to experience Israel for the first time with Bubbe and Savta. I am excited for you to see, and taste, and smell, and experience all of the exciting things Israel has to offer. Dad and I have poured many hours into planning this trip. We will focus on the fun stuff Israel has to offer, hoping that your first taste will be sweet, and sweaty. You have so much to look forward to. When your older we will come back, let you grapple first had with the struggles Israel is dealing with, and support you as you find your voice. The Israel of tomorrow will undeniably be a different Israel than today.
This trip is jam-packed. Some days you will be tired, it’s going to be hot… and things will seem less familiar. Remember this is an adventure to experience new things! To make the most of our trip we promise to feed you ice cream every day, swim a lot, put our phones down and focus on being in the moment with you.
As you fall in love with the sweetness of Israel forgive us for not revealing all of Israel’s flaws all at once. And as the years pass, and you discover some of Israel’s skeletons remember that the most important part of being in a relationship is the commitment. You might not agree, you might get very angry, but you must not walk out the door, remain in dialogue and struggle with your opposing feelings and values. This is the truest form of love.