ATID is the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis advanced leadership program. Part of every ATID class is a trip to Israel. These are accounts from the partcipants of ATID IV, who are traveling through Israel in February 2016.
Post written by Jeff Sondhelm
Leaving Har Herzl, which includes Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum) and the National Military Cemetery, we returned to the hotel and prepared for Shabbat. On Fridays in preparation for Shabbat, most Israelis take the day off, whether they are religious or not. However, on the streets, the pace quickens, as folks prepare for a day of rest and hurriedly purchase the last minute items in order to be home before sunset. The contrast of the day—mourning the loss of half of worldwide Jewry with a thriving Jewish culture and society—reminds me of Yom Ha’Zikaron (Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror) leading directly into Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day).
Yes, we have suffered, but now we exist as a free, strong, and independent people!
That evening we waited for Shabbat to begin on the roof deck of the hotel, inspired by the view of the Old City. At last, it was time for Shabbat dinner. As we made our way to dinner, our guests were introduced. They included familiar but unexpected faces, including former Indianapolis Shlichim, friends from our Partnership Program, and even an Indianapolis rabbi.
We made Kiddush and had a wonderful meal. We enjoyed each other’s company and the fruit of the vine! While all of this was great, and certainly was a worthy Shabbat dinner by itself, it was what came next which left the most lasting impression.
Here we sat, in Jerusalem, a diverse group of Jews who a week earlier had barely known each other’s names and finally, the song books came out and we began to sing. We sang about a dozen songs to honor the Shabbat, but the real Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G-d’s Name) was that we achieved, on a very small scale, one of the things we are taught will lead directly to the redemption of our people: Achdut (Jewish unity). We had traveled to Israel as strangers—unaffiliated, Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox—but that night we were simply Jews.
In retrospect, I am left with an amazing experience, and an important question. Why do we need to travel 6,000 miles to Jerusalem in order to feel the unique bond of Jews which should transcend synagogue affiliation (or not), politics, or even religious practice? I am inspired to come home to Indianapolis and spend more time singing (or talking) with Jews. It is only when we can love one another and celebrate together, even our differences, that the world will change. You can all experience the simcha (joy) that we did in that tiny room!