Why I Love Israel: A Jewish Perspective

Why I Love Israel: A Jewish Perspective
Kerr Street Cafe
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About the Author

Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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As I write this, I am preparing for the trip of a lifetime.  I will be leading our congregational mission to Israel, a two week trip leaving the last day of June.  I am so excited, and I’ve been to Israel many times, I can only imagine what most of the 42 participants are feeling as they have never been.

My first trip was in the summer of 1985 when I was just 11 years old.  It was magical and beautiful.  With my parents we rented a car and drove from north to south.  We met with family I had only heard about, saw ancient sites I had only read about and ate aromatic foods I didn’t even know existed.  My parents still recall the moment as I walked though an ancient tunnel of water used by the ancient Israelites in Jerusalem to survive and siege, when I abruptly declared, Mom, Dad, this is the tunnel I just learned about in school last month.  That was my ah-ha moment.

Western-Wall-And-Omar-Mosque-Jerusalem-Israel-1-1600x1200For this group, it might happen gazing at the Western Wall that last remaining piece of the ancient holy Temple in Jerusalem.  It might happen walking the ancient streets of tzfat, hiking the gorges of the Golan Heights, climbing Masada, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea or shopping in Tel Aviv.

What makes Israel so special is the deep connection our people has to this land.  It’s our eternal homeland.  It is the land God promised to Abraham and Sarah and all of our ancestors and then to us.  It is the place where we found freedom after centuries of slavery in Egypt.  It is where we built a magnificent worship site to our God.  It is where our dreams of sovereignty were restored in 1948.

Today it is more than an archeological paradise, its a modern, living, technologically dominant state.  Its brimming with innovating breakthroughs in computers, green energy, biotechnology and agriculture.  Its a desert country that has ice hockey rinks.  You can ride a camel and pass a battery operated car heading to a public charging station.  You can eat at a falafel sandwich, an Ethiopian injera or pad-Thai.  The people in Israel have been gathered from all four corners of the world, a safe haven from our sometimes terrifying past, a stronghold today and light to the nations for the future.  That is our Israel and I can’t wait to get there.

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