Eighteen years ago my husband, Marvin and I took our first trip to Israel. We returned to the United States with a greater appreciation of the courageous Israelis and their country. This year, thanks to Beth El, I was afforded the opportunity to revisit Israel. Even though my situation had changed (my husband passed away 3 years ago), my enthusiasm for a trip to Israel had not diminished.
Our trip began at the parking lot of Beth El. Everyone seemed to bond right away (somehow everyone in Pikesville knows each other in some way). When we departed for Newark Airport, I was excited and anxious at the same time. When we finally boarded El Al in the afternoon, the realization set in that I was actually on my way to Israel for a second time.
Upon our arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, we were met by our young Israeli guide, who was just 31 years old. His knowledge of the country and its historical background was amazing. Any question posed to Eretz was answered without hesitation. We were taken to our first stop, Caesarea, where we observed and listened to information about the ruins found there. Wherever one goes in Israel, there are archeological digs taking place. It is awe-inspiring to view the many ancient cities and relics that the Israelis have uncovered. Their contribution to the history of mankind is invaluable.
The sights and sounds of Israel will always leave a lasting impression on me. From the bustling traffic during the weekdays in Jerusalem to quiet contrast in that city on the Sabbath. I shall always remember Rabbi Schwartz conducting Services at the beginning and end of the Sabbath (and Dr. Bor playing a soulful melody on his clarinet). Our services were held on the balcony of our hotel, the Leonardo in Jerusalem which overlooks the Old City.
There were many memorable experiences I had while in Israel. I shall always be touched by planting an olive tree in memory of my husband. Eighteen year ago both of us planted trees in honor of our parents and grandchildren. Now I feel a part of the JNF forest. The new Olympic Training Center was another vision the Israelis have for training athletes.
However, the visit to Masada, which I had also visited before, still left me with awe. Remembering those brave souls who stood and fought until the end. That determination still exists in the Israelis of today. The courage of the young soldiers cannot be denied.
One cannot leave Yad Vashem without remembering what the Jewish people had to endure during those dark days. The Children’s Pavilion with the many lights representing each child killed in the Holocaust left me with tears. The testimony of the survivors recalled the perils that existed, and why today it is so important for Israel to exist as a place for the Jews.
Israel, to me, was a country of contrasts. On one hand, the ancient remains of temples, the old synagogues, the western wall, the sheep herders in the mountains, and many other reminders of the past stand next to the high rises, and buildings of modern architecture that stand stately and gleaming in new cities which are being populated. Everywhere, one can see Under Armor signs, Google, and other tech companies. Israel is as modern and advanced as any country on earth.
Eighteen years ago I marveled at the Israel I saw. On this journey, I was stunned by how far advanced and the progress that is continually going on in Israel. As a Jew, my trip made me appreciate the Israelis and that I was fortunate enough to experience what their county afforded me.