From Megillah to Madness…and Back Again: AIPAC 2016


On the eve of the Festival of Purim, before we listen to or read the Megillah, partake in libations and festive affairs, and recall the strength of our Purim heroes, I thought it would be an ideal time to reflect on my recent experience at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference. Throughout the Policy Conference, I had a chance to (re)connect with many congregants, colleagues, and friends. The energy was elevated, and the tension palpable. Over 18,000 came together to show their support and love of Israel.

First, some framing with regard to my general thinking on Israel and AIPAC:

  1. I believe that we, as a collective Jewish people, stand taller and prouder today because of the amazing and incredible work that Israel does in many areas.  It is continually innovative, forward thinking, and visionary in spite of constant threats on its borders and throughout the region.
  1. More Americans, regardless of religious or race affiliation, should support the work of AIPAC. Why?
    • AIPAC is one of the few places that supports bi-partisan conversation and work towards a common goal, further promoting the success and safety of the Jewish State. And this “bipartisanship” nourishes our ethical obligation to see the humanity in the other.
    • America needs Israel.  Israel needs America. AIPAC works unfailingly to strengthen these two democracies’ joint work in critical and meaningful ways.

At this year’s Policy Conference, I connected with and learned from African American state legislators, as they passionately spoke about the enormous impact IsraAid has had on their communities – coming to the relief of some of the poorest communities in the U.S. last year during the worst floods seen there in over 1000 years.

I also learned about the unbroken commitment to Israeli ingenuity. For example, SoftWheel is a company that is supporting wheelchair-bound individuals by putting suspensions in the actual wheel or wheelchairs – meaning no more flat tires and increase comfort for those in the chairs! And this technology is starting to be used in bikes and cars! The company was founded by IDF veterans, and supports our US vets as well – incredible genius as just one example of the extraordinary innovations from Israeli society working in partnerships with the U.S.

In addition to these impactful take-aways, the conference is commingled with countless sessions on everything Israel: education, policy, diplomatic relations, social justice, lobbying – you name it. And this year, delegates had an opportunity that witness something that only comes about every 4 years: to hear from this year’s presidential candidates LIVE.

Since I have been a rabbi I have stayed away from commenting on partisan politics. I believe that the job of a rabbi is to foster sacred space and enable others to feel free to voice their own opinion, without judgment or reservation. Yet besides being one of the spiritual advisers in my congregation, I am also a father of two. And as a father, I feel responsible to teach my children that when there is wickedness in our midst, we must stand up and recognize it. Whether at home, in our school or local communities – even the political arena, it is our moral and religious imperative.

I believe that it is vital for any U.S. Presidential candidate to illustrate their commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. And I deeply value that 4 of the 5 current candidates understood how important it was to showcase his/her platform on the U.S.-Israel relationship, and how they would actualize their vision come January, 2017. Additionally, I feel that AIPAC had every right, as a bipartisan lobbying group, to invite all candidates, regardless of rhetoric. After all, they are vying for the highest office in our land, and should be afforded an opportunity to engage with a crowd that has a desire to know where they stand on this strategic partnership with America’s closest ally.

Upon reflection, all of the candidates promoted their deep love and commitment to Israel, through either substantive or strategic proposals (Clinton and Kasich, and at times, Cruz), or through personal narrative (Trump). The 3 republicans voiced their strong opposition for the Iran deal, which seemed to serve as a centerpiece for their remarks. Some of them also focused their statements on policy failures by the current administration, rather than lay out any substantive plans. Some brief highlights: Cruz quoting Talmud, Clinton bringing on (Pure)im, Kasich on his relationship with Sharansky, and Trump boasting about his Jewish grandchildren. For me, both Clinton and Kasich spoke passionately, with experience and commanded-ness, about the U.S.-Israel relationship, both of their vision making reasonable and short and long-term strategic sense.

Yet, while substance was provided during most of the speeches, sadly, the wickedness we have seen throughout this election cycle reared its ugly head on Monday night as well. As anticipated (and boy he did not surprise), I experienced an early Purim Shpiel of sorts – outrageous declarations, silly cheers and boos, all of which caused many to mask our truest selves, and sew confusion over who is good and who is wicked. As a glass half full guy, I was hoping for a muted response and ideally, in advance of the policy conference, a voice that would distance AIPAC from potential inflammatory statements from Mr. Trump, and given the organization an opportunity to model their theme: #cometogether. Sadly, it never happened. Nevertheless, the next morning, AIPAC leadership stood front and center and shared much of what needed to be said. I felt, at least, it was a good start and much-need teshuvah (repentance) (click here to read the remarks):

They condemned Mr. Trump’s incendiary remarks against President Obama and misguided rhetoric. I stood proud in that moment, in contrast to the great discomfort I felt as he approached the center of the arena to share his 15-20 minute oratory.

Truth be told, “wicked” is a term identified who those who seek to bring others down; those who seek to find the worst in others. I believe our tradition would certainly qualify Mr. Trump as such. From his call on banning all Muslims from entering the United States, to his lengthy evasion to disavow support from David Duke, his pervasive and persistent misogyny, proposals to make torture legal, and a call to kill the families of terrorism suspects (to name a few), there is no doubt in my mind that his campaign has, and continues to inspire and unmask those who promote these injustices. 

This evening, we will read the Book of Esther and recall that good triumphed over evil: King Ahasuerus first seduces the people of his kingdom with lavish parties – his people grateful for his seemingly “audacious hospitality”. It is at that moment that the King elevates the wicked Haman (boo) to a position of great power. Haman eventually manufacturers an edict to kill the Jews in his kingdom, but Mordechai, a Jew living in Shushan, senses Haman’s potential power and refuses to bow down. All but Mordechai prostrate themselves before Haman.

It is at the moment that I believe Mordechai spoke great truth to power. On Monday evening, I thought of my children and the messages I wanted to convey to them. And as I write this, I am able to draw inspiration from our narrative. We must not bow down and kneel to those who inspire hatred and overlook calls for violence. This is our mandate and our sacred responsibility.

So, what can we do when our political landscape affords bullies the platform to dominate public arenas? As a Jewish people, we look to our tradition, to God, and to the world around us. And, as a modern Jewish community determined to learn from those around us – we listen, we learn, and we act.

Our Rabbinic teachings note: “Silence implies consent.” We will not and cannot be silent. Our “more perfect union” is indeed, not so perfect. And as progressive Jews, we have a moral imperative to become more involved with groups like AIPAC, not less. We must make our voices heard, and demand more of our elected officials. We must not remain silent. We must not stand idly by. There is no room for hate. Our child deserve more.

I hope you will join me at next year’s AIPAC Conference (click here to register NOW) to add your voice in advocacy, and in support and love for the Jewish state.

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Sacred? And On Who’s Authority? Israel Sabbatical Post 3

The Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem has always been a place of “questionable” sacredness for me. The allure of our biblical narrative and journey has drawn me there time and again….taking many groups and individuals to experience a piece of US that still remains. Upon approach, its positioning is majestic – a reminder of a powerful symbol of inspiration for so many. Yet, even as I stand in awe of its physical greatness, place notes of prayer and healing in the wall, and recite words of Tehillim (Psalms), I, myself, struggle with its sacredness. 
Perhaps it’s because of my own inner struggles with its attachment to a sacrificial time that is not in practice today. Perhaps, moreover, in today’s world, the Kotel has become a politicized arena between Haredim and other – religious nationalists, IDF soldiers, progressive Jewish men and women (from Israel and broad), and non-Jews (many who are not even aware of the challenges).   
Today, the physical greatness I speak of is tempered by the smallness in its current form of welcome to anyone outside of the accepted fold. I offer you two incidents that happened to my family and I while here on my sabbatical: 


Site of the Shomrot HaSniut – modesty guards
  In this picture, you will see a women, standing near a table. These tables, new in the past few months, are placed in strategic locations, adjacent to each security entrance to the Plaza of the Kotel. They are manned by Shomrot HaSniut (guards/overseers of modesty). For as long as I could remember, women would lap the women’s section of the Wall to remind newcomers to cover their bare arms and legs. Yet, as time progresses, the overseer’s reach has expanded greatly – through the entirety of the Plaza. 

Our first incident occurred when we were taking a family picture on the plaza (far removed from the Kotel men’s and women’s sections). Two women approached my wife (who was wearing a sleeveless shirt) to ask her to cover. After a firm retort (in Hebrew) from both of us, they sheepishly retreated. Their goal: do not allow any woman they deem immodest to enter into their expanded holy space. 

The second occurred as we entered with a friend visiting from the states. On this day, we had no desire to approach the wall. Rather, we were making our way to a tour of the Western Wall tunnels (a must do on your next trip to Israel)! A young Haredi woman (not more than 25 y/o) approached our friend (in a tank top and skirt), and asked her to cover up). In my take of sniut (modesty), there was nothing immodest about her dress. Regardless, she was aware of the customs of the area and brought a shawl to place over her bare shoulders. As I tried to interact with the “modesty guard”, she kept focusing on our friend, making it clear she was speaking to her directly. I asked the woman if she was a “ba’ala hakotel” – the owner of the kotel? She wouldn’t answer. I asked her several more times. She finally noted that her role was to oversee modesty in this sacred place. As she threw some insults my way over my own rabbinate, our interaction continued to get heated over the next few minutes, as we were not giving in to her demand. The chief rabbi of the Kotel recently noted that the entirety of the plaza is now to be treated as a synagogue, hence their new and far more aggressive directive. 

As we moved away from her, the shomeret hasniut followed us into the entrance of the tunnels, continuing to harass us by telling the male guard that our friend should not be allowed anywhere near the walls in the tunnels until she “covers up”. Appearing as he now experiences this on a daily basis, he “yes’d” her and told her to leave. 

While the above experiences were not detrimental in any way for us as a family, my children (for the first time) experienced internal bias Jew to Jew. It brought up lots of questions for them, and furthered the wrestling they, and we, are continuing to do throughout this incredible summer in Israel.  

Some final thoughts about the current administrators of the Kotel and holy sites: 
1. The Kotel is NOT a synagogue. Rather, it is a national historic site, a place for prayer, for wonder, for holiness for ALL PEOPLES. 

2. It appears as though people are welcome to pray at the plaza so long as they adhere to the rules and don’t challenge the status quo. 
The leadership of the Kotel has the potential, the capacity to bring thousands of Jews and others back to the Kotel. In an open letter to the Women of the Wall the other day, the chief administrator of the Kotel said: “The Kotel is bigger than all of us.” I believe that wholeheartedly. So make the welcome match the grandeur of this site, without minimizing one’s own practice and identity. 


Writing notes to put in the Wall
Ethan placing a note at the Kotel
 Until my next post….

From Intolerance to Simcha: Israel Sabbatical 2015 Post 1

It has been approximately one week since our arrival in Israel for my summer sabbatical, and over 3 weeks since my mother’s passing. I have entered this sacred land with mixed emotions…trying to find a balance between this mourning period and releasing from the tensions that have part of my life these past months. And yes, while the Jerusalem air, warm days and cool nights offers a sense of calm and shlemut (wholeness), truth told, it is a work in progress, and for today, I will label it: “dynamic tension”.   
I wanted to share an interesting encounter I had this past Shabbat while spending this time with our ultra orthodox cousins, who live in the city of Beit Shemesh. Beit Shemesh (for those who might not be familiar), is a sleeper community between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These most recent years have found this community filled with tensions between secular and religious, religious and ultra religious, and the list goes on. Beit Shemesh, for me, has served as an incubator for such connections and subsequent tensions. 

For our first shabbat in Israel, we shared this experience with our cousins at their home in Beit Shemesh – a fully shomer shabbat, shome mitzvot experience – just what the doctor ordered! My cousin, an orthodox rabbi by smicha (ordination), but a computer programmer by day, knows my love for Carlebach music and prayer – so we headed to the Carlebach minyan. Shuls (synagogues) are a plenty in this community, and while the energy of this type of minyan was not his cup of tea, he was gracious in his offer to come with. 
The evneing started with such energy and beauty….singing and joyous momentum (on the men’s side) as we sang through the prayers of Kabbalat Shabbat – no less than 4 times of men being pulled up to dance around the service leader. Truly joyous! Yet, given the happenings of the past few weeks and tensions between these Jewish religious sects, something miraculous was occuring before my eyes: hasidim, religious zionists, and modern Orthodox were davening (praying) together – singing, clapping, and dancing. 

The height of my observation (as an outsider to this community) was the interaction between some of the Chasidim and immediate former MK (member of Knesset) Dov Lipman. Dov spent the past few years as a member of the Yesh Atid party, heading a ferocious campaign to enforce cumpulsory military service for the ultra orthodox community (they are not currently obligated). One might think it would be a challenging place for him to enter. Rather, what I witnessed were pats on the back, smiles, and positive and supportive conversation for Dov’s presence in this sacred moment. I witnessed, first hand, the joy of welcoming Shabbat trumping the feelings and challenges that have been clouding this community for quite some time.

For me, the gift of Shabbat is to leave behind the everday challenges we are obligated to/responsible for. Rather, barriers are removed, and we are ignited with the 3 flames: 2 are those that help us to make that sacred distinction between everyday and holy; the third ignites the best within us so that we may actualize our greatest human potential: v’ahavta l’recha komocha – love your neighbor as yourself. 

Getting ready to put a note in the wall at the Kotel
Though I am just at the beginning of this incredible journey, so may lessons have already been learned. I look forward to sharing more about my incredible learning time at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem….stay tuned! 

Words from My Friend…NIR

This picture was taken on our first Israel Bike Trip in 2008
This picture was taken on our first Israel Bike Trip in 2008

These past years, I have been leading a number of congregational trips to Israel, all of which have involved rigorous biking. To guide us through these incredible journeys, we have been in the hands of someone who has come to be a trusted friend, Nir Nitzan. He is an incredible tour operator and guide, yet he also served as a commander in the IDF. Over these weeks, Nir has been sharing incredible insights with me, along with a number of other friends from our Temple and throughout the country. I share with you his most recent emails, which I believe help to articulate some of the challenges that Israelis have been living with as of late. I welcome your thoughts and dialogue:

Received on January 24th: THANK YOU ALL
The last few days are not working days … no tours at all as most was canceled … though I did have 1 tour that did not run home asap… a private tour of mother and daughter from NY , the mother about my age and the girl a bit younger then my youngest who simply asked for my opinion.. “Is it safe to stay??” and my respond … that since we do not go down to the 25 miles range and since we have this iron dome it is safe …and with the MOST naïve trust in me we ended the tour as planed …
BUT the support I get from you all my very dear friends abroad is not natural or obvious and it is accepted with very deep thanks and excitement …
I get here daily mails and notes of support in almost every channel … this is very moving… the Old song we use to sing here when I was a kid = “the whole world is against us – Never mind we shall overcome” – this song is proved wrong once again … we are fighting a very cruel war here against a very vicious enemy that fights as dirty as can be, and violate every possible international law and decent rule while we are criticize by most the world though for “our actions”…
Mayor Blumberg came for few hours of support visit and between the alarms I was hosting in my house a friend – last week Rabbi Howard Jaffe from the Boston area who is in Israel for studies and got “caught” in Israel without planning to be here in such strange days…He said he would not have changed it even if he could… it is like a miracle in Israel this days ..the unity in most places … yes we do have some bad fringes on the left and the right but they are so small…
SO thank you SO much our friends across the Ocean … we need you support and we are blessed to have it

Day 18
Just before shabbat ..
this morning I drove Noa back to Gaza headquarters ..
Unlike yesterday that there was heavy fog and nearly 0 visibility this morning driving south along the border we could see the smoke of the bombing and the heavy dast up in the air made by the tanks, this few minutes under 1 hour drive was quite surrealistic …
we could hear the shootings and see the war 1-3 miles away from us and it felt really wrong to live here there …
As Noa walked out of the car I met there in the headquarter a friend who is the commander of one of the tank brigade … he just lost his G3 and radio man 3 days ago and came in all dusty for a short break and shower … I gave him a hug too and asked him to stay safe …
It is almost Shabbat … this day was relative quite … it also looks like the end of this is closer than ever …
Israel’s leaders are locked up in the room with Kerry , discussing the possible end of this bloody round .
I just baked Hallah for shabbat … you are welcome for our shabbat Dinner
Hanna did all other cooking so NO WORRIES at all it will be great food…

Israel’s (And Our) Sacred Obligation

306085_10151369426699928_1255815395_nA recent post from Rabbi Nevarez – sermon that he gave on 7.18.14:

Parshat Matot/Israel’s Sacred Obligation

Almost one week ago, I returned from serving on faculty at URJ Eisner Camp in the Berkshires, where many of our young congregants, including my oldest, spend much of their time immersed in sports, arts, and strong friendships, all in a Jewish setting.

They call it the “Eisner Bubble”, where the happenings of the world around them typically remain at a distance.  Yet, as I wrote to the congregation two weeks ago, the situation in Israel permeated the Bubble, as many family members and friends of both American and Israeli staff are currently there.  Our hearts and prayers were with them each and every day.

And since my exit from the bubble,  I, like many of you, have been bombarded by article after email after article, and subsequently reminded me and had me fully appreciate those times in which being insulated and surrounded by community can be a beautiful, healthy, and healing part of life’s journey.

Specifically, upon exiting the camp community, amid the ongoing troubles between Israel and the Hamas, I have taken a particular interest into the many Americans and media commentators that are drawing disturbing lines of parallelism between the two societies, asserting a false moral equivalency to the actions of each.

The realities: four boys are dead and Israel is again on the brink of war: Three Jewish boys killed to provoke Israel into action that her enemies hoped would bring down the wrath and ridicule of the world; riots in Jerusalem, in France, in Los Angeles ensued. Hamas rockets fired into Israel, and Israel responds by flying sorties over Gaza and targeting Hamas operatives and rocket launchers.

Cease-fires, agreed to by Israel have been subsequently denied by Hamas. And just yesterday, Israel widens it Gaza offensive by sending in ground troops. The situation is a ticking time bomb.

And so it may seem ironic, or perhaps timely, that we read Parshat Matot this week, which teaches us much about raw and brutal revenge and retaliation in the guise of holiness. It is one thing to recognize our passion for revenge, but quite another to claim it is God’s bidding.

That is precisely what we find in Parshat Matot: We read: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.” (Numbers 31:1-2)

The very last public “service” of Moses, one who has models devotion and humility, will be to launch a bloody campaign against a notorious enemy.

Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Let men be picked out from among you for a campaign, and let them fall upon Midian to wreak the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall dispatch on the campaign a thousand from every one of the tribes of Israel.” (Numbers 31:3-5)

Torah records that the Israelites slew men, women, and children. It is a shocking story. Were we to actually believe it to be factual history, it would be all the more horrifying. Yet, in the same sacred scroll, we have a very clear mandate as a Jewish people: You shall not take revenge or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Lord.

So how are we to understand these contradicting mandates of contradiction? All this stirs in my mind as I painfully contemplate the past few weeks, in which Israel has been engaged in military action in Gaza.  And as I write this the United Nations has reported that over 200 Palestinians have been killed in Operation Protective Edge in the past week, many of them children, and many more have been injured. More than one voice has proclaimed that Operation Protective Edge is an act of revenge. And it appears as though the American and western media revel in this verbiage as well. Yet, I believe we shouldn’t be so quick to label it as such because the evidence does not match up:

  • Israel has gone to historically unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. Hamas targets have been warned by texts, cell calls, and leaflets dropped from the air to vacate houses targeted for destruction. Israel’s goal is to cripple the Hamas infrastructure, not harm the people of Gaza.
  • Hamas, which has won elections with the support of the population of Gaza, is a terrorist group that remains bent on the destruction of Israel and its citizens. Israel uses anti-missles to protect its citizens. Hamas uses its citizens to protect its rockets. Just yesterday, we learned that 20 rockets were found housed at a UN school in Gaza. Without provocation, the Hamas governing authority flings rockets over the border, all over Israel, without regard to civilian lives or public safety. In fact, the terrorists frequently target civilians. Their intent: to terrorize and inflict as much pain as possible. Hamas operatives have embedded themselves deep within the civilian population, increasing the likelihood of civilian casualties because this plays well in the media and the arena of world opinion. They have long employed the tactic of using civilians as “human shields.”
  • Israel worked out a cease-fire arrangement with the aid of Egypt. Israel has unilaterally initiated a cease-fire. Hamas has summarily rejected them, counting its bombardment of rockets toward Israel.
  • Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system that intercepts and destroys short-range rockets and artillery shells whose trajectories would bring them to populated areas, is working well. Thank goodness.

I mention these pieces of the current situation to illustrate that Israel’s actions in Gaza, however much we might wish they hadn’t happened and Israel had not considered them necessary, are not acts of revenge. Rather, Marcus Aurelius says it best in his book, Meditations, when he writes: “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy”.

The killing of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali was an intentional act of provocation. Israel’s sorties over Gaza are to protect its population from the rain of rockets showering its nation, OUR nation.

I believe that never was there a more pointed contrast that, on the one hand, those in the world who dedicate their lives to engage and work toward peace, and on the other, others who become radicalized into violence in the name of God. And I believe that is the difference between a culture of life and one of death. This has become the battle of our time, not only in Israel but in Iraq, in Nigeria, and elsewhere throughout our world. For many of us, there is both a dynamic tension and troubling exhaustion from a conflict which seems to have no end; a world which seems to hang in the balance – not to mention ongoing questions about what it is that we might do ourselves to eradicate the perceived unsolvable hatreds over land, history and God.

The persistence of hatred and war after all these years combined with a broader extremism has the potential to confuse, to blind, to leave us grasping for the allure of dangerous totalities. Texts, FB messages, and selfies from bomb shelters with family and friends all over Israel. And the war of opinions and images, of news biases from Gaza to Tel Aviv, of what seems to be a hopeless search for objectivity in a land where rockets are falling, terror is looming, consensus is elusive. This war is taking place in the context of a region torn apart, not by the sheer weight of good people everywhere merely wanting to survive, but by bad people doing bad things and drawing the good into the line of fire; and good people being forced to do bad things in order to prevent more bad things from happening.

So what can WE do? Our tradition teaches that it is incumbent upon us to mourn the loss of life, on either side, with the promise to live life itself to its fullest expression; we must confront the deficiencies of life with a generosity of spirit. And for me, and all of us here, we must remember that to be a Jew in the world is a weighted privilege, which still, tragically, can come at the price of life itself.

Every day, we add another layer to the ongoing tensions. And while we can be sure that there will be more news updates and more emotions felt, I think back for a moment at the 3 young men we lost a few weeks ago. Some would say, the genesis of this most recent uprising. I will neither forget the young victims nor what they lived for: the right that everyone on earth should enjoy, to live a life of faith without fear.

I believe this is our charge, as klei kodesh, holy vessels, to be the bearers of light. Today, let us use our “light”, as we live outside our own “bubbles”, to remain as fortified as ever, resilient with hope, and faithful in our belief that the Jewish people need and deserve, like any other nation, a state of our own. We have the capacity, the potential, and the gifts to be those vessels, in which the lessons we learn can manifest into sacred teachings, and tempers the evils that exist in our world. May we all heed to call to teach these timeless lessons. AMEN.

As We Reflect…

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As we recap our final days in Israel, we are all in awe at how much we have experienced. At last we left off, we were in a beautiful b and b in the desert, had a wonderful bbq (courtesy of our travel team). After dinner, we enjoyed each other’s company, were treated to some beautiful music (thank Susan) and later the Giants game (thanks to Ira and his slingbox)!

We woke up to a clear sky and the dry desert air, ate a delicious breakfast, and made our way to a beautiful overlook for morning services and meditations. Then, we went to pay our respects to Zionist pioneer and Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, whose final resting place is in the desert overlooking the Arava. Along the way, we also stopped to see the sights of Mitzpei Ramon – a naturally-formed crater in the middle of the Negev Desert.

We descended into and drove through the massive crater and soon after got on our bikes. We rode and rode, with the wind in our face, and at times, at our backs….with our final miles being a beautiful descent through the Negev mountains. We finished our final day of riding just short of the Red Mountain Riding Center, the project in which we are funding through our riding. All of us were incredibly moved at the passion and commitment of the therapists, psychologists, and most especially, the amazing children we saw, who are transformed and are able to “live life” through this critical treatment.

We ended the day in Eilat, as some headed for needed r and r- for some more than others! We then headed out for a great seafood dinner, and really experienced Israelis in their truest form- we thank our server for exhibiting authentic Israeli customer service!  We even celebrated Roger’s “March” birthday- so you can imagine he was extremely surprised and grateful!

Some of us distilled the spirits of Eilat, listening to some American music while attempting to build social connections with with some beautiful Israelis- Adam had a great time!

On Tuesday, we rose early to news of the destruction at home, and did our best to connect with our family and friends, as well as put contingencies into place. We were fortunate to hear that our family members were safe.

With the pain of the hurricane in our hearts, we did our best to remain present. We spent the morning on the Red Sea, the landscape picturesque: with Jordan and Saudia Arabia to our right, Egypt and Israel to our left and front.

On our way back, we stopped at a richly-smelling spice outlet, and of course…yotvata ice cream (the best in Israel). We were all treated to a wonderful surprise when Nir, our guide, and his wife, Chana, opened their beautiful home to us and hosted our farewell dinner. The warmth, hospitality, and food, while not surprising, exceeded our expectations, and only served to add a truly unique and special experience on our last night in Israel. We were fortunate to get on the first flight from Israel to New York, as JFK opened 1 hour prior to our delayed arrival.

For those of you who have been reading our blog, we hope that you were able to truly capture and enjoy some of our daily adventures, and inspired to help us add to those special children who need our financial support in sustaining their much and necessary therapeutic needs.

It has been exciting to share our journey with you, and are all happy to share more special memories upon our return. As our new Temple logo expresses, we were all able to celebrate, learn, pray, and connect, knowing all the while we live it as part of our sacred community.

Remember, if you haven’t already done so, please click the DONATE box and help us with our cause – it’s not too late!!

We’re Thinking of All of You….

In lieu of a blog post today as we finish our final day of riding, we just want to offer our thoughts and prayers to all you- our friends, family, and congregational family, who are weathering Hurricane Sandy as this is written. Please stay safe.

We will blog again when life calms down. We are hoping to get on our flight on Wednesday morning, but will keep you posted. Much love….

-R. Nevarez and the TST Bikers