Friday, March 22, 2013

This is a city  GREAT bookstores.  In less than a week we spent time in three different bookstores, each of which is vastly superior (yes, vastly superior) to any bookstore in Washington.  London has at least one other bookstore of this caliber that we did not have a chance to visit.  Oh for a Foyles, a Hatchards, or a Daunts in Washington.  I made purchases in each of the stores as we spent hours in each of these gems.  I was busily scribbling down many more titles that I wanted to purchase but did not want to break my back or my suitcase carrying them all home .   (Home now and just ordered seven more books on line)
We need bookstores--great bookstores because it is through browsing that we find what we want to read.  Would anyone dream of buying all of their clothing on line without ever trying anything on?  Books are the same way--without GREAT bookstores we are prisoners of reviewers and of those book that become  popular.  GREAT bookstores help us push the limit on what we want to read and explore.  How can we in America be great and learned with our current bookstores?
London hooked me--even if just for the books.
Oh the museums--amazing
The Churchill Museum and War Rooms were incredible-- the perfect follow up to the battlefields of Normandy.  Churchill--what a leader, what a way with words.  As John Kennedy wrote about him, "In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men save Englishmen despaired of England's life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
This museum, set into the preserved underground bunkers built during the war to protect the British war command from the blitz, you relive the harrowing days of the war--when Great Britain stood alone against Germany.  Oh-- Churchill had what it took.  We long for such leaders today.
The British Museum
What antiquity is not in this museum?
Egypt-check, Babylon-check, Persia-check, India-check, South America-check, British Isles- duh
Totally amazing--
I loved the very large room on the Enlightenment and the Era of Discovery.  The treatment of language, religion and text could be used as a classic introduction to the modern study of Judaism and Reform Judaism.
Westminster Abbey-- beautiful, a must see-loved Poets Corner-Shakespeare, Dickens, Milton and on and on and of course a thrill to see where Newton and Darwin are buried-- see Enlightenment above.
Greatest thrill was having drinks in the House of Lords with our new dear friend Rabbi, Dame, Baroness Julia Neuberger.  What a blast.
London--simply walking the streets is a thrill.  Finally, bought a nice wool sweater for myself--very British.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thoughts on France

Thoughts on France
The plane ride from Tel Aviv to Paris is five hours and a thousand years.  Whereas Tel Aviv is the new city in the old-new land, Paris for all its sleek fashion and chic, for me anyhow, felt like stepping back into the court of a French monarch in the 17th century. 
Palaces, halls, churches, cathedrals all built on a fantastic scale times ten--this is the first impression of Paris.  No wonder America asked a Frenchman, Pierre L'Enfant, to design Washington.  They know grandeur on a grand scale.  The buildings are magnificent, epic.  They speak of empire, greatness, wealth, power, ambition, faith and history.  At the same time off of the main thoroughfares, squares and courtyards,  the streets are small, narrow and on a very human scale.  It is both a beautiful and a lovely city for walking.
The city reflects its grand past.
We visited the Museum of the Shoah and the Memorial to the Deportations.  The Memorial to the Deportations is on the Seine immediately behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  It is stark, somber, dignified--all totally appropriate.  I naturally wanted more.  I wanted bold signs saying "We the French Did This!  We Handed Our Fellow Citizens to be Murdered!"
I got that and more a few minutes later when we walked from the Deportation Memorial to the Museum of the Shoah in the Marais.  This is one of the most impressive and beautiful Shoah museums or memorials that I have ever experienced.  The memorial consists of a series of walls engraved with the names of every French Jew murdered.  There is a sculpture of a chimney with the names of the concentration camps.  Inside there is a dimly lit memorial hall --soft, sad, quiet, introspective.
The museum tells the story in a forthright way-- honesty no holding back--the  French experience and the European experience under Nazi rule and what it meant for Jews.  It is clear--yes, the French police organized round ups.  Yes, the French police herded Jewish children from orphanages.  Yes, the French authorities were zealous.  Yes, people closed their doors on their neighbors as 76,000 French Jews were taken away and murdered.
We left the museum and wandered past the outside wall where are engraved the names of those citizens of France that are included among the "Righteous of the Nations" by the Yad Va-Shem Commission in Israel, those that saved Jewish lives at the risk of their own and their families.  We stopped at the name of Father Andre Trocme of Le Chambon, the hero of the beautiful book Lest Innocent Blood be Shed.  Father Trocme was the Huguenot pastor during the war who when confronted with a Jewish family at his door let them in.  When asked why he did this, knowing that he was risking his life and his family, Father Trocme replied that he did not know what else to do.  In his faith when someone is in trouble, you help.  Father Trocme organized his entire village to become a safe hiding place for Jews seeking to escape the Nazis.  He himself was imprisoned by the  Nazis on several occasions.  He was relentless.  He would not say "no."  I liked seeing his name on that wall.  I read the book in 1980 and first saw his tree on the Avenue of the Righteous in Jerusalem in 1982.
We wandered through the Marais and were thrilled to see Israeli falafel and shwarma kiosks.   We felt at home.  The Marais remains a lively Jewish area filled with Jewish bookstores, Jewish artshops and Jewish restaurants.

Jumping now to Normandy
We had an amazing guide for three days of touring the Normandy battle sites, Paul Woodage.  Paul is clearly THE guide to use for a Normandy visit.  Unbeknownst to us when we booked him, when Max Hastings, Britain's foremost WWII historian visits Normandy he uses this guide as does every veteran from Band of Brothers.   Paul makes the battle into a human struggle.  He is about the people and not the weapons, formations and equipment--which he knows intimately.  For example, I learned about Sherman Tanks.  The Americans wanted an easily repairable tank that any mechanic could fix.  They also had to design a tank that could be easily shipped from Detroit to Europe--one that could pass under every railroad bridge and underpass--through every canal, etc.  It had to be designed to get from Detroit to the coast and from the coast onto a ship to Europe.  But for Paul--the story is about the brave men, leadership and sacrifice---thousands of stories of different kinds of men.
Courage-- what does it take to storm a beach in the face of withering machine gun fire?  The Normandy examples  from June- August, 1944, are way too many to count.   We visited spot after spot of courage--the Normandy invasion on a grand scale was a spectacular feat, the largest invasion force from sea to land in world history over miles of beaches.  This does not include the thousands of paratroopers who were dropped behind German lines the night before the invasion to try and secure the roads and bridges inland so that the invasion force would not be pinned on the beach.  (My favorite line from Band of Brothers, "Hey, we're airborne, we're supposed to be surrounded.")
That is the grand scale-- but such a massive endeavor is actually hundreds upon hundreds of small encounters--encounters where small units of 10-20-30 men held bridges and junctions against withering attack and overwhelming German force.  Brave men-- brave very young men--17, 18, 19 years old--led by officers who were 24, 25,26.
The American cemetery--rows upon rows of crosses with more than a few Stars of David-- "their last full measure of devotion." 
I very much wanted to come to Normandy to see what I had only read about.  Louise and I said kaddish.
Now to romanticize-- I can see why people love coming to France.  The countryside is beautiful, farms, green--the villages are on a human scale--walking the village of Bayeux--where we stayed while visiting Normandy was wonderful-intimate.  I said to Louise that it is like visiting Colonial Williamsburg but real.  Every village in Normandy has an enormous one thousand year old cathedral like church.  You can still see and feel what was here--what France was--an empire, wealth, church, king, royalty at the center.  The Bayeux Cathedral is glorious.
I want to come back to explore --especially Paris and see the museums-- we only got to one art museum to see a beautiful Chagall exhibit.
France leaves me with an enormous feeling of past grandeur and history.
 Israel is so very different.   Israel remains that old-new land that tells and foretells my story.  Israel is our old story--yet being in Israel, you can feel the new pages being written.  In other words--simply to take two small towns--Bayeux, France and Afula, Israel are two totally different places.  Bayeux points to the past--Afula points to the future.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This Old New Land

Bialik, Ben Gurion and Beyond--This Old- New Land
Herzl's two great works were The Jewish State and Altneuland.  The latter title was so brilliantly selected-- its theme reverberates everywhere in the country.
Our last two days in Israel.  Yesterday we went to visit the first Tel Aviv City Hall, now a museum of the history of the city with a great deal of emphasis on the first mayor, Meir Diezengoff and then to the home, two houses away of Haim Nahman Bialik, the poet laureate of the Jewish people.  Before that we had stopped by the home of David Ben Gurion--now a museum.
Bialik-- I think it is impossible to overestimate Bialik's importance in the revival of modern Hebrew in Israel (Palestine) in the early part of the 20th century.  I remember as a youngster in my Jewish day school in Chicago being required to memorize his poems.  His writings are vast--poetry, short stories, essays, children's stories and poems.
What struck me in his house was his vast Hebrew library--his deep learning in traditional Jewish writings was apparent.  His collection of midrashim was enormous Mekilta, sifre, sifra-- Midrash Rabbah, yalkutim of every variety.  His library also had Maimonides, Judah Ha-Levi, YD Eisenstein--collections of Medieval Hebrew poetry.  Bialik was steeped in the ancient and medieval literature of our people.  From the old--he is the symbol of the creation of a new Hebrew literature. 
Ben Gurion's house is essentially a few rooms built around a huge library--about ten thousand volumes.  Ben Gurion is reputed to have read every book in the collection and to know where each book was shelved.  (Aside-- we went there specifically to see two books by my Grandpa Goldman in the collection.  The librarians took them off the shelves for us--quite a thrill)  Ben Gurion was a keen student of philosophy, Bible and history.   We need his ilk today.
The people who built this place-- those Zionist patriarchs were so deeply learned, so cultured--wondrous by any standard.   They were living embodiments of an ancient culture that they were sifting through and refashioning to create a Jewish future. 
I am so blown away by this.  It's not that they decided one day to create a homeland .   They were building on a foundation of learning and sophistication-- they were giants.
We are the heirs to what they fashioned-- a nation among the nations.
We ended our final days visit with a walk through the Trumpeldor Cemetery-- the first cemetery in Tel Aviv.  Ahad Haam is buried here.  Bialik, Diezengoff, Tchernikovsky, Moshe Sharrett--and so many of the early luminaries all buried here.  The cemetery is beautiful and old and fragile sitting in the middle of vibrant, bustling, noisy Tel Aviv.
As we were leaving the cemetery, we stopped at a very large monument of 47 gravesites-- the memorial to the Jews killed in the Arab riots in Jaffa against the Jewish settlement in 1920.  It was so sad to see.
Again, we are the heirs to what they fashioned--many have died just so we can live here--"to be a free people in our home land..."
Herzl got it right-- Altneuland.  This is our old new land.  Whenever I leave Israel, it is with such sadness.  The problems here are enormous.  This place can confound my soul but I love it like no place else. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

More Thoughts From Israel

In a conversation with someone who lives there, they made the observation that for Israelis, religion is a "service industry."  We talked about that for a while.  The point is that for a secular Israeli the times that they come into contact with the religion of Judaism are such occasions as bris, bar mitzvah, marriage, etc.  The Israelis have their real lives but for these moments go to the religious "service industry" for what is required by the ministry of religion.
In our conversation we compared this to owning a car.  We own cars for what we want to do with them-- drive places--but we occasionally have to go for "servicing"--new brakes, oil change etc.
Side note-- I think this is why Israelis are not by and large enraged over the treatment of Women at the Wall.  They view women who want to pray with tallitot, etc. at the Wall as people who want to become part of that weird service industry that is so remote and tangential to their lives and feels alien even during the service interactions.  
Side note 2-One way that Reform and Conservative synagogues seem to become successful here is by taking a market share of the service industry--namely bar  mitzvah.  Then with a small percentage of the bar mitzvah families who become interested they are able to create viable communities.
Seeing this-- I see that American synagogues are also in the service industry--in no way to the same extent as in Israel.  Rabbis in America I think are respected much more than rabbis in Israel.  There is a much greater sense that a synagogue can be relevant and important to a person's life, that Judaism can be learned in an important way-- that there can be creativity and life in the synagogue--etc.
Still we hate the part of us that is viewed as service industry-
1. Why do we hate it?  Why do we care if for some people what we do is the prelim to a party?  Is it because it makes us feel like empty props?   Actors but not real?  It cheapens or mocks the sacred?  I think that is all part of it.  I also think that this is a question that is always worth thinking about...  Why do those of us on the inside of our faith--those of us who cannot imagine our lives without the nourishment that our Judaism provides us, view the religion of Judaism so differently than those on the outside?  What is missing?  Where is the disconnect?

2. I think we have two ways to respond to the "service industry" mentality.
Neither is easy--
A. The really hard one is by making the essences of Judaism self evidently important and sacred to people--  to open up Jewish wisdom, beauty, literature, art, music, spirituality to people--so that the Jewish life is intertwined with their own lives--to make Jewish identity--if you will- a vibrant animating feature of who they are.
This is perhaps the primary long range challenge of non-Orthodox American Judaism-- to create a compelling theology, narrative--a way for Jews to see the Jewish story as that which is a defining strand of their lives.

B.  The second is through relationships-- by creating personal relationships with people we change the nature of the "service industry" service--if you will.  Judaism is based in relationships--the essential Jewish model is the covenantal relationship.  Without relationships we become self obsessed--not healthy in any way. 
Religion in Israel Take 2
So, I was asked to make a presentation to the rabbinical class at HUC in Jerusalem--very nice.  I very briefly prepared a couple of texts--twenty minutes into the presentation I realized that it was going terribly. When I used the term "wissenschaft" to describe one way of analyzing a text and received blank stares in return, I realized that I had not connected with the group in any way.
Time to recalibrate-- so--we ended with a brief discussion on religion in Israel--I floated my theory.  Why don't Conservative and Reform Judaism make it here in any significant way? 
As I have thought about this question while here, I have thought about the role that churches play in America.  Robert Putnam, and so many others, point out that church in America is a place to socialize, make friends--be with people, etc.  In church you are not lonely.  Well---- Israel is the most socially connected place imaginable-- this country is one large tangled, interconnected web.  The thickness of relationships here is simply amazing.  Walk down any street in Tel Aviv--and besides seeing couples in the cafes, you see groups of men--everywhere talking, shmoozing, interacting.  Women are in groups also--but it is not as prevalent (why?).  Men have self formed social clubs: army buddies that they keep forever; high school friends stay friends forever.  There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie all across the country.  Our non-Orthodox congregations in Israel provide this social center place for the anglo-olim.  The natives don't need it.
No one in Israel needs a synagogue to be a place where one can exercise the Jewish part of oneself-- that happens by breathing the air and speaking the language.
As far as the synagogue being a place where people find purpose and meaning in their lives-- again -- Israel is a place filled with purpose and meaning.  The country wouldn't last without it.  I think that modern religion can make it in Israel-- the trick is to find a way to connect Judaism with the ethic of the country-- Zionism. 

Next Post--A Friday Night
Last night we had a typical Israel experience.  We went at 10:00 at night to an enormous restaurant in the area of the old Tel Aviv port to what might be called an Israel song fest.  Now--please keep in mind as you read this, that for Israel this was nothing special--these kinds of events happen weekly all over the country.  They are part of the culture--like going to a baseball game in America.
We entered a huge restaurant that had a tent next to it for expansion--the room filled up with hundreds of people-- we ordered food etc.  The singing began-- for over three hours--old songs of the yishuv, Purim songs, Israeli folk songs, psalm texts-- all Hebrew songs.  I knew maybe one-third.  They were songs expressing a love of the land of Israel--songs of the Jewish people-- the music was led by a performing artist-- Gabby Berlin--with a small support band.  He invited others to come join him on the stage, other known (and unknown) folk singers in the crowd.  EVERYONE IN THE CROWD WAS SINGING AND DANCING THE ENTIRE EVENING WITH GUSTO AND JOY.  It was beautiful.  They knew all of the songs--it was an amazing, warm, engaging experience--fun, exciting--simple joy of being alive and living in Israel--a land you love--a land whose history is your history and whose story you embrace. 
Academics might call this an example of Israel civil religion--I don't need anything so fancy--it was Israel culture celebrating, life, family country, land, friendship.  I loved it.  I want if for America.
So the singing went on for over THREE HOURS.  Louise and I left at about 1:20 A.M.  It was just about finished.
Israelis have a thick culture of love of country, devotion to each other.  THEY HAVE A NARRATIVE--A STORY and they sing and celebrate it all of the time.  Contrast this with an American baseball game where most people don't even sing the Star Spangled Banner before the game but stand there embarrassed and awkward. 
They have a story-- we in America have lost touch with our story and as American Jews--it is even more complicated.
This connection to land and people is so energizing and beautiful.  Without it, they could not send their sons and daughters to the army.  Israelis as a society simply seem to know what they are about in a way that seems so lacking in America.  On this--earlier in the week we spent time with another friend who  told us about his son's great disappointment that his asthma prevented him for serving in a combat unit in the army, but had been assigned to intelligence instead.  The son tried to appeal.  The father also felt some disappointment-saying something like "I understand this desire to serve, to give back to the country." Intelligence is also obviously needed--but the national ethic --to pull your weight, shoulder your share, etc.--and these friends are of the strong Left of the country-- Meretz type of voters.
There is nothing in this place that doesn't fascinate me.
It also gives me many thoughts about the American synagogue-- a future posting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thoughts From Israel-Feb 2013

Thoughts From Israel 
Hello Friends,

I am writing to you from our apartment in Tel Aviv.  After three lovely days in the Negev at a new Israeli "spa-resort," we drove to Tel Aviv and found our way to our place here.

Israel is always Israel-- wonderful and infuriating.  The resort-- is an incredibly lovely setting in the Negeb overlooking the Mactesh-- crater. In Mitzpeh Ramon.  The setting is a bit of a combination of the Badlands of South Dakota and the Grand Canyon-- although much, much smaller-- stunning in its beauty.

But as with Israelis--everyone at the hotel-spa acted like they were doing you a favor if you asked for something-- even as simple as a cup of coffee at breakfast.  so in Tel Aviv-- we pull up to the Eldan car rental location to return the car in downtown Tel Aviv to return the car-- we walk into the office to make the return and do the paperwork.  they ask me--"Where is the car?"  I point to it out in front and they tell me that it belongs in the lot across the street-- no mention of the lot across the street in any of the paperwork or instructions--just the address of the office We are standing in.  A big shrug and sigh-- We are standing there with suitcases and such---ok return here and then another scold.

The apartment is in a great location right on Dizengoff about two blocks from Diezengoff Center.  It is a duplex which makes it sound much fancier than it is.  The bedroom is upstairs with a beautiful roof balcony.  the lower level is a small sitting area, kitchen and another bedroom.  The furnishings are very simple.  The apt is clean and totally fine for the month we will be here.

My cousin, Pam--who lives in Tel Aviv who helped me find the apt spent part of the afternoon with us.  she is great and will spend part of tomorrow with us to show us the ropes.

The feeling here always borders on intense-more intense.  The news is filled with the Israeli air strikes on the weapons convoy from Syria to Lebanon-- bound for Hezbollah hands.  much speculation on what this means-- is Assad losing control and desperate to get the weapons out?  Is Hezbollah in over its head in support of Assad?  will there be more such attempted shipments thus dragging Israel more into the Syrian chaos?  If so, will Hezbollah retaliate by shooting into Israel?  This is all the talk of one days news--incessantly coming at us--even as Peres began the formal process of officially selecting Netanyahu to form a government.

Finally-- whenever I am here, I remember why I come here.  this evening Louise and I walked the streets of Tel aviv after dinner in a very small restaurant.  we were the only ones in the place.  we had found the small place on-line.  we were served by the owner-- one of those faces of Israel people.  He came here in 1950 at the age of five with his family from Turkey-- where else was a Jew to go in those years he asked me.  He showed us pictures of his family.  We spoke of how the country has changed since he was a little boy in a much smaller Tel Aviv.  He said that you can still walk the entire city all night and feel safe.  That hasn't changed.

Louise and I walked and walked.  as I saw all of the different faces and looks, I thought of a great line of Thomas Friedman that he wrote many years ago when he was covering the Olympics from China.  He wrote about the opening ceremony --something -along the lines of -- "When the Japanese team marched in they looked like Japan, when the team from Ethiopia marched in they looked like Ethiopia, when the Swedish team marched in they look like Sweden. And when the American team marched in they looked like all of them together.  There is real beauty in that.
Well-- one night on the streets of Tel aviv tells me that the  look of the Israeli team wouldn't be far behind.  Israel is where the Jewish people have come together.  That is why I love coming here-- and to make it really great-- they are all speaking Hebrew at the same time.

Signing off now-- sorry about all of the typos--even more than usual.  I am using the I-pad which I hate to type on.

Update 2
Hello All-
Another update--
We have now spent a couple of days visiting and talking with Israeli friends.  It is so enlightening.  My friends voted for Bibi--saying it was very simple.  One said, "Bibi makes me feel safe."  The other said that he does not like Bibi--he thinks Bibi is not a good person and not trustworthy but he knows how to handle security and right now--for him that is the priority. 
When I talk with this particular friend I very deeply feel the gap between Israel and so many American Jews.  There is no question that in order to understand this country you have to be here and speak with Israelis and listen to them.  A word about my friend (Srulik)--I have known him for forty years since I was in school here in 1972.  He is married to an even longer time friend of mine.  He was born in Israel as were his parents.  He has a PhD from an American university and has worked in Israel high tech for years.  He has taught at the Technion.
My friend speaks about the "little war" in Gaza in November.  He says that Bibi did everything masterfully.  He brought 100,000 soldier invasion force to the border but did  not invade.  He attacked from the air and since then the border has been quiet.
Srulik would never vote for Naftali Bennet because he wants peace.  He totally wants to return the West Bank to the Palestinians--he does not like settlements.  He says that the Palestinians are unable and unwilling to make a deal that any Israeli would accept.  As for Lapid-- e could not at this point vote for him-- no experience running anything except a TV show.  My friend greatly misses Rabin and says that Labor, Kadima etc need to find leaders with strength and vision.
We spoke for a long time this afternoon--more in my next e-mail.  We spoke at length about a favorite topic of mine--Israelis seem to have a culturally\socially imbued sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.  Americans, it seems to me go looking for meaning and purpose.  Whenever I am here I am captured by this somewhat mystical feeling.  They know what they are about in a way that we don't.
More on that another time--
Walking the streets-- this is why we need a Jewish country-- The street names--today I kept track of the streets I passed-- Queen Esther, Hasmoneans, Rothchild, Mapu, YL Gordon, Frishman to name a few.  Culture is embedded in the names to the streets.  For thise of you who do not know--Mapu was the Hebrew novelist of the Jewish enlightenment whose novel's Zionist themes inspired Ben Gurion.  Yl Gordon was a Hebrew poet in Russia--also of the Jewish enlightenment. Frishman was a 19th century Russian Jewish Hebrew writer and editor and somewhat of a an anti Zionist.  Walking the streets here is literally a walk through Jewish history.
Sigh-- this is just another reason why Jewish education in America is so hard--no context, no thickness.
We love being here--the weather is beautiful, the country so animated--nothing could be better!  Doing lots of great reading!!!!

Update number 3

Shabbat Afternoon
We are sitting on our balcony\porch looking out over Tel Aviv.  We are currently in the shade as at this point in the afternoon a high rise apartment building blocks our sun.  I would very much like the sun but the fact that Tel Aviv has high rise apartment buildings simply thrills me.  I am more than content.
Louise and I took a long walk this morning along the Tel Aviv beach to Jaffa.  The beach walkway on Shabbat is overflowing with activity--bikers, joggers, lovers, walkers, families with strollers.  The beach life has sun bathers, kids playing in the sand and even a some brave swimmers although the beaches are officially closed for winter.  The beach front cafes are jammed. 
I take it all in and think of how happy Herzl would be if he could see this--his dream come true--Tel Aviv-- the city named after his book Altneuland, the new city in the "old new land."
We walked and talked-
First-- you need a Jewish country for the important news stories.  The rabbis have decreed that burekas ( a Sephardic stuffed filo pastry) must be shaped according to whether they are meat or dairy to make it easier for the kosher consumer.  Dairy filled burekas must now be in a triangle shape.
Then--in a wonder of wonder-- the leading Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis did two stunning things-
1. They invited the leading religious Zionist rabbis to meet with them to press their claims for Yeshiva student army exemption.  The Haredi students do not do army service-- the Zionist ones of course serve.  According to the press, the meetings back fired as the Haredi rabbis are so insulated from the real world that they had no idea to invite that had any influence with the Naftali Bennet political party.
2. The Haredi rabbis are so panicked over this issue that the Hassidic Haredi and the Mitnaged Haredi actually also met together--
The news photos of the above are all delightful--especially if you like photos of beautiful black hats.
We talked and wondered how it is possible that every American Jew has not visited in Israel--at least once.  I am really thinking about what is the basis for the attachment of an American Jew to Israel. 
For me Jewish peoplehood is a basic ingredient of Jewish religious life.  "God, Torah and Israel are one"  (Zohar )  I am drawn to this mystical teaching.  Israel is Jewish peoplehood writ large across the globe.  Land is homeland--this land.  The deep feeling that our people have come home here overwhelms me here every day and moves me deeply.
We went to Shabbat services last night at the neighborhood shul-- The attraction of Orthodox Judaism remains way beyond me.  There were maybe 150 people there--not a bad crowd--but for the center of Tel Aviv?  This is a radically secular city.