CEO September 2017 Update

Israel does its magic once again

It’s always great to be in Israel.  

Returning on the Jewish Federations of North America Campaigners’ Mission last month with Russ Jennings was no exception.  Russ, one of our Men’s Division co-chairs, was a great roommate. He inhaled every piece of information and every impression from the site visits and experts that spoke to us. See his article on page 7.

We arrived in Israel amid the controversy over the “Temple Mount,” which caused much friction and seemed like it might spark something bigger in the conflict than it did.

When we entered Jerusalem, we were told we could not go to the Kotel.  Two days later, however, we were allowed to visit one of the holiest sites to the Jewish people.  I had never experienced this kind of apprehension over a visit to the Kotel, and I hope it never happens again.

Israel still does its magic and the people we met still have their unwavering support of our “home country.” People are still making Aliyah from countries all around the world.  There are still young people coming to make Aliyah and join the IDF  My friend Julie, from Delaware, is an inspiration to all of us.  She is a “lone soldier” in the Israeli army. She came to Israel without parents at 24 and is still in the army (and very proud of it).  

Russ and I were both inspired by Tzipi Zipper, a young woman who made Aliyah from Colorado. She worked hard to join a combat unit in the army and even trained to serve with the border police later.  Tragically, she was hit by a careless driver and paralyzed from her waist down.  Tzipi is now working with the Tel Aviv CIL (Center for Independent Living).  The CIL is an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee agency and, in fact, we (JCFR) funded the CIL in Haifa for a number of years.  She plans on getting her law degree and being an advocate for the developmentally disabled in Israel.

The 60+ Mission participants experienced Israel with all of its bright spots and even some of its flaws.  Israelis are an amazingly resilient people. They handle the threats from their neighbors and from terrorism as well as could be expected.  They continue to manage their everyday lives and go about their work and play with what seems to be a lack of fear.

One of my friends from Hadera told me that celebrating Shabbat in western Jerusalem, while violence was happening not more than two miles away in East Jerusalem, is part of life.  “Welcome to Israel,” he noted. 

I wished it was calm in Israel for the sake of my Israeli friends and for everyone’s piece of mind. But, in 2014 Richard Samet and I participated in the Campaigners’ mission in the middle of a war. We felt totally safe the entire time.  We would both tell you, however, that we saw Israel at its finest during 2014. 

We need to continue to demonstrate our support for Israel, and see how remarkable the people and the country continues to be.  Issues can’t be ignored and we took every opportunity to discuss the issues of equal access to the Kotel and the conversion policy with every official we met.

We need to continue to visit Israel and to continue supporting her by visiting as often as we can. As Sherry Rose (OBM) said: “We have come on a mission, let us return with a mission.”

Am Yisroel chai!!!!

As always, contact me at (804) 545-8622 or email sasher@jewishrichmond.org.