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Ten Takeaways From My Trip to Israel

02/29/2024 11:55:51 AM


Rabbi Bryan Wexler

Shalom from Israel!  I have been in Israel since Monday and return to Cherry Hill overnight this evening.  It has been a quick but certainly important trip to Israel, probably the most important and impactful time I have ever spent here.  I am grateful to our Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey for planning this solidarity mission and I am grateful to my TBS family, all of you, for supporting my being on the mission and away from TBS this week. There is SO much to say and so much to share.  I look forward to sharing with you many reflections and the myriad stories I have collected in the days and weeks to come.  I also hope you have had an opportunity to reads my daily posts this week on Facebook or on our TBS website and to see the photos.  I also sent THIS video (with the help of Alex Weinberg) to our ECEC and Religious School students this week.  Finally, as we head into Shabbat, during which we will read Parashat Ki Tissa, which contains the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, allow me to offer 10 Takeaways from my trip about Israel:

In no particular order:
1.    Israel does not feel the same.  Everything feels subdued and incomplete.  At the same time, there is a palpable feeling of unity; a feeling of: “we are all in this together.”

2.    If you have not been to Israel to see it with your own eyes and hear it directly from survivors and the IDF, whatever you think/imagine happened on October 7th, it was SO MUCH WORSE.  It was as many Israeli’s have described it to me, a Holocaust.

3.    Despite what might be said in the media or on social media, the IDF leads with a deep sense of humanity and care.

4.    The stories I have heard from Israelis are so important and must be shared.  

5.    Journalist Gil Hoffman told our group:  “there are heroes all around in Israel, walking down every street.  So many unsung heroes.” It is so true.  Israel is a country filled with heroes

6.    One Israeli after another has told our group how much it means to them that we are here.  The support and love mean so much to them. And as they keep telling us, having  the space and audience to share their stories, their heart-rending, deeply personal stories, is helpful for their processing.

7.    The trauma and mental health issues in Israel are significant.  Israelis are reeling.  

8.    Israelis are incredibly strong and resilient.  It is remarkable. AND we cannot let that mask the trauma and suffering they have endured and continue to endure.

9.    We must find ways in our South Jersey community and beyond to share this narrative.  We need to get more people to Israel to visit and to see it with their own eyes and hear it with their own ears.  And we must find ways to combat the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric that has become ever-present in schools, on college campuses, online, and more.

10.    And finally, despite the immense loss, suffering, and trauma, a message I have gotten the sense from Israelis throughout the trip is that Israel will be okay.  It will take time to rebuild and there is tremendous healing that is needed.  Israel needs us now more than ever.  But, Israel will be okay, because that is the Israeli way.  That is the Jewish way.

There is so much more to say, but for now, I will end with three words: Am Yisrael Hai!

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784