ISRAEL … I get it!


If I write the background story of not coming to Israel, there won’t be space left for the explanation of the most meaningful adventure of my life. But here’s a few of the beliefs that kept me away until March 2023 – it’s too dangerous, it’s too much time on a bus and blah blah blah.
In the summer of 2022, I was having a reunion with a friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years. I told him I was hoping to go to Israel in a couple months, and he said I should come on the Portland Federation tour in March 2023. I contacted the Federation and found out there was room.
No more excuses; a higher power had cleared the way. When I landed on March 17, I found there were several people I knew from my childhood in Portland. It was a whirlwind, but an amazing way to see a lot in a little time. The staff did a fantastic job of making sure both first-timers and returnees had meaningful experiences.
I could detail the stops each day, most of which were amazing in their own right, but that would dilute the revelational experience I had. Seeing and walking around the cities of biblical significance was hard to grasp at first. Luckily, several incredibly knowledgeable and patient tour guides connected my hallucinations about Israel to the reality of our homeland. From Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Ceasaria, Akko, a kibbutz in the Golan, dinner cruise on the Galilee, Tiberius, Tzfat, through the West Bank and Jordan River Valley, Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea, I’ve never felt so safe in my life.
Even during the protests that shut down the country for a brief period, the crowds weren’t the kind that burn cars and take over police precincts like in America. The protestors were all speaking up for their dreams and hopes for their country, and how to keep it together and strong. There are no gangs, no signs of drugs, no homelessness. Absolutely nothing like what’s portrayed on American media.
I loved hearing Hebrew everywhere, but most spoke English if needed. I loved wearing a kippah from the moment I boarded El Al in Los Angeles to the moment I returned. I loved wrapping tefillin on the plane as well as at the Kotel, davening, then putting prayers into The Wall’s cracks that friends had given me to deliver.
My three most meaningful stops were Tsfat, where Kaballah was developed in the 13th century; Jerusalem, where Torah surrounds you; and Hebron, where our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried. Davening the Minchah service was indescribable, standing on the ground where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah, Rebecca, Adam and Eve lived was a full-circle connection that left me speechless for days.
What did my first trip to Israel mean to me? Life-changing. Everything looks different now. I’m different now. Connected in a new way now.
I get it … Baruch HaShem.

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