Shortly, I will return to Hanover after a month on Sabbatical that has proved rich and rewarding. I miss everyone and it was with great restraint that I did not write sooner, but I wanted to focus all of my energies to life here in Israel.
I have a few insights that I would like to share and perhaps more when I return. The first is that the Hebrew language is a most beautiful one and yet most difficult to learn; despite all the resources, speaking remains a challenge, though this has improved. It makes me deeply appreciate the challenges of trying to learn anything that is somewhat new (modern Hebrew is not Biblical Hebrew. It differs significantly, the most important of which is that the latter is not spoken). Returning with that sense of difficulty, it has renewed my deepest admiration for what we as a community believe and stress as important; that Hebrew, whether transliterated or read in the original, is of great value. True, it can be a very daunting challenge to anyone and especially to our children. We set the bar high in that regard and I hope we will raise it even higher but to raise it with compassion and with understanding.
I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of Israeli life day to day and therefore did not tour or do anything outside of Tel Aviv. I watched Israeli television, the news in Hebrew, walked the streets of Tel Aviv all to see what life on a day to day basis is like, and to listen to their music to see what it is that Israelis think about, what they consider to be important, their hopes and dreams. I have some things to tell, but I can tell you that it is clear that this is a Jewish culture, a Jewish state, and a true homeland and that much of our differences and misunderstandings are at its core due to language and where we stand on what and who is a Jew.
Is Judaism a religion or a people or a synthesis of both? There is a very strong sense that this is a Jewish country and a homeland for us all, but it is stronger than I think most of us sense here in the United States. There is always “mashber” here in some sense – a crises sort to speak that our people here discuss with great feeling and passion. We are a passionate people; that is for certain and they like to discuss everything; from the former President of Israel (Moshe Katzav’s) conviction on rape and sexual harassment charges to which a program similar to Jon Stewart’s, but has four comedians instead of one, where on one telecast they discussed which is more dangerous to Israel -again a very satirical way – “Iran, Hamas, or the Haredim (the religious right).” It was quite funny and again a healthy way to live.
Claudia will get a kick out of this. As many of you know, I like to “forage” the refrigerator at Roth during the week and will eat about anything that sits in it. But I must admit that even I had some trepidation when I decided to buy uncooked chicken and fish at the Shuk Hacarmel (a large kind of bazaar like atmosphere in Tel Aviv where I live close by). The FDA, I’m sure, would have closed all these shops immediately. I went back to my small (a vast understatement) apartment and cooked both on a kind of hotplate that I am sure was pre-war (1948). But it seemed to work as I ate both and I am still here after a week. I lived to tell the tale.
My Hebrew immersion has been wonderful in many respects – particularly in writing and reading and learning new Israeli songs that I am hoping we can utilize in our services and that I have already forwarded to Bonnie to begin working with Kol Hanashim in at least listening and having a sense of these beautiful words and lyrics.
I miss all of you deeply and look forward to seeing all of you and continuing to serving all of you.
With all my love,