Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue

Image of Israel with sun in sky and text overlaid reads: Rabbinic Mission to Israel

This week I am in Israel on a trip with eight rabbis from the Washington area and the president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The purpose of the trip is to deepen our own education regarding the situation in Israel and to offer solidarity to its citizens.

At dinner last night the journalist Matti Friedman pointed out that in the United States those who condemn Israel do so with accusations of racism. In Europe they condemn Israel and say it is about colonialism. He concluded that the Jew, and therefore our country is, and has always been, the screen upon which other nations and religions project their own guilt.

Tonight we were with the deeply inspiring first Druze member of the Keneset, Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh. She believes deeply that Israel must be a democracy in which all people are treated equally under the law, and for this reason has fought against Israel’s new Nation-State law. She said though Israel is the Jewish country on a national level, there must be housing equality and educational equality on a legal level for all of its citizens.

We visited a house in Ashkelon which had been half destroyed by a missile last week. The woman of the house who we met with, a grandmother, lived there with 9 family members including her grandson who was sleeping at the time of the missile. Her main focus was the miracles God had done for her. In Ashkelon one only has two seconds to run to a shelter when the siren goes off. Just before the siren went off she went to check on her grandson. She had a feeling about him and picked him up. As she did the siren went off  and this gave her the extra half a second to run toward the safe room. She and her family were spared physically. When asked about the Gazans she said she believed there are good and bad people among us all and had sincere hope for peace. I walked out feeling that before her, we rabbis are people of little faith.

I leave feeling Israel is a land that is threatened, confusing and miraculous, and it is the only Jewish country.

In this week’s parsha we read of the spies. The lesson of the story of the spies is not about thinking that Israel is a perfect place, it’s about judging it favorably and honestly and loving it nonetheless  as so many of its peoples do.

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