So yesterday I joined up with the rest of the participants on the formal part of the CCAR Mission. I had spent Shabbat with my family in Ramat HaSharon; the family claims to be secular, but everyone was present for a Friday night (Shabbat) meal. We lit candles, we recited Kiddush with wine and challah; but don’t forget, they’re secular. And then as the evening continued, and I sat together with my uncle and aunt he quoted the Tanach to illustrate points in our conversation; but remember, he’s secular.
This is one of the sides of Israel that never fails to thrill me, the fact that being secular here means being a secular Jew; which means celebrating Judaism, quoting from the Tanach, while constantly claiming to not be religious.
Another element of Israel which I always derive great joy from is the fact that it is impossible to walk in Jerusalem without bumping into people. I was standing at the hotel desk, checking in and receiving my room card, when I looked to my right and walking through the door were three friends from Redondo Beach in California. I had been the Rabbinic intern at their congregation from 2007-8 and I had not see them since. We all live in America, and yet we had to come to Jerusalem to meet up and get reacquainted.
In terms of the day’s activities we visited the Israel Museum, we went to Armon HaNatziv to look out over Jerusalem and we heard from David Leichman of Kibbutz Gezer.
But by far the most powerful experience was meeting with Talia Levanon of the Israel Trauma Coalition. She is on the front line of helping those members of Israeli society who are suffering from trauma and anxiety as a result of the ongoing terrorist attacks and wars.
She talked about the unique situation in the south of Israel and the fact that over the past 12 years there have been 13,000 kassam rockets. Children have been born associating the color red with terror alerts, and being scared every time they hear a loud noise. These are not soldiers, these are not people who have taken up arms, these are people who are simply living in their homes (on undisputed territory) and yet they are suffering from serious anxiety and a form of post traumatic stress disorder.
It is also worth noting that just over a week ago Talia was in New York helping communities with their response to Hurricane Sandy. Despite all of the work which she is needed for over here, she still found time to travel to help people in New York to deal with their own traumatic experience. She was also in Toulouse after the shooting at a Jewish school and in Japan after the melt down at the nuclear power plant. That is the Israel rarely covered in the news; the only country to send support to America after Hurricane Sandy and always on the front line sharing her experiences to help other countries in need.