25
Dec

Random Thoughts on a brief trip to Israel

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Tomorrow night, I trek back to Seattle after a brief one-week trip to Eretz Yisrael. 

I had the great merit of walking around Yerushalayim yesterday in the area of Sarei Yisrael, the Central Bus Station, Givat Shaul, Bet Hakerem etc.

I had lunch with our daughters who recently returned to Israel to learn at Machon Tal and Machon Da’at in Givat Shaul. Tuition is 10% of a comparable program at an American college.

Before meeting them, I stopped by the local Café Aroma for a drink. Like many restaurants in the Jerusalem area, the standards of kashrut have risen dramatically over the past couple of decades; this has been in response to the increasing percentages of the local population living by these higher standards. That said, the crowd there was a real cross-section of Israeli society, and it was a pure pleasure to just sit in the cafe, amongst my people, sipping on what was unquestionably the best ice coffee on earth.

Although Israelis complained about it for years, the Jerusalem light rail seems to have solved quite a few traffic problems in the city. It’s clean, efficient, reasonably priced, and safe. The bus service from the capital to our children’s town outside of Jerusalem has greatly improved: the condition of the buses, the number of buses and routes, the smoothness of the ride....

One of my rebbes in yeshiva used to tell great [albeit exaggerated] jokes about the cumbersome Israeli bureaucracy. As an Israeli citizen (we lived here for 17 years), when I visit, I usually have some business to take care of during the visit. This time around, I settled matters through logging on to a website or two, a phone call, a fax…no long lines and days wasted being told to come back again with the document I’d forgotten…

We Jews spent 40 years in the desert for uttering disparaging words about the Land of Israel; we must not repeat that transgression. Let these brief words be a "tikkun"/rectification of that sin:

For me, Israel is....intense Torah study, warm people, a spoonful of sweet yogurt, a crisp cucumber..

The Talmud in Tractate Ketubot reports:

When Rabbi Zeira went up to the Land of Israel and could not find a ferry to cross a certain river, he grasped a rope bridge and crossed. Thereupon a certain Sadducee sneered at him: 'Hasty people, that put your mouths before your ears, you are still, as ever, clinging to your hastiness'. Rabbi Zeira replied. 'The spot which Moses and Aaron were not worthy of entering, who could assure me that I should be worthy of entering?'

Rabbi Abba used to kiss the cliffs of Akko. 

Rabbi Hanina used to repair its roads. 

Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi used to rise from their seats to move from the sun to the shade and from the shade to the sun. 

Rabbi Hiyya bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust, for it is said in Tehillim (102:15) "For Your servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust."

 

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