For example I am sure you have all been following the events surrounding the return of the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. It was two years ago, July 12, 2006 that Hezbollah attacked a reserve patrol along the northern border but because they took their bodies it was not known for sure if they were alive or dead.
In many ways this attack precipitated the second Lebanon War that had such catastrophic results for Israel. It was their capture that caused us at TBS to start saying the prayer for soldiers that we recite every Shabbat morning as part of our davening.
And it came to an end this past Wednesday when all Israel watched the live television picture of Hezbollah announcing that if you want to know the fate of your boys? And then they placed two coffins on the ground. It was a sad moment, a tragic moment in the life of modern Israel - and it was played out over 24 hours culminating in their funerals on Thursday. It was heart wrenching - but as usual it was a privilege to be here and see how this country and this people deals with its heartbreak. The comments of Karnit Goldwasser who spoke at her husband's funeral -- they had been married less than a year - and the clips from their wedding video are interspersed with his funeral on Israeli TV.
And now begins the debate -- was it worth it? was it the right thing to do? Israel traded 199 bodies and 5 live Lebanese prisoners -- to get back the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Israel is now going through that internal soul searching that it does so well. The commentators are giving their opinions and the people are debating and something very remarkable is happening. There right in front of my eyes a nation is changing, maturing, learning, reacting.
I don't know why but it just doesn't seem to happen that way in America. There are events, there are those who speak out -- but maybe because we are so much larger -- you just don't see it happening -- the wheels turning, the pained looks, the thoughtful responses the anger and sadness that gives way to understanding and growth. Here it is just so much more -- real.
What makes this country so remarkable is that it does learn. It grows. Yes, it makes mistakes -- and some of them have been tragic. But, it rarely sweeps them under the rug, it almost never ignores them or denies them -- that is not what they do here. Here, like father Jacob so long ago -- in an act that got his name changed to Yisrael -- here they wrestle.
Wrestling is still what Israel does best -- they wrestle with each other, but most of all, they wrestle with themselves.
Two scenes played out on the TV screen this past week -- on the other side of the border Nasralloah gave triumphant speeches how they won. They danced and they celebrated a victory that brought them nothing. And here on our side --we cried and we mourned the funeral of our two boys who finally came home. There was a lot of crying here in Israel this week and a lot of sad conversation, some heated debates and a lot of love and support. I am glad that I am on this side of the border -- on our side.
For a wonderful example of the kind of soul searching that is going on here take a look at this Danny Gordis piece
On Wednesday night we took a walking tour of the Nahlaot section of Jerusalem with Benjy Levin the grandson of "The Tzadik of Jerusalem" Reb Aryeh Levin. It was a remarkable evening of stories and a glimpse into a Jerusalem that is no more. We were introduced to the characters who walked these streets almost some 60 years ago. Sinners and saints and personalities that were quite remarkable. Like the milkman Reb Sholem who was so pious that he was disturbed by the housewives of Rehavia who were coming out to purchase their milk in their nightgowns -- so he dipped his Streimel --his hat in herring brine and smelled so bad -- they left the bottles on the doorstep with a note rather than coming out to meet him.
On Thursday we took a tiyul, a trip down to Qumran on the Dead Sea. We were escorted by Hanan Eshel a remarkable archeologist who specializes in the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can read more about him here
We spent an entire day learning about the Qumran sect and one of the things that we learned is that Qumran in the summer is VERY HOT! Having barely survived our trek up to a few of the caves where the scrolls were found and exploring the community in which they lived more than 2000 years ago -- we were bussed up to the Israel Museum where we were met by Adolfo Roitman the Director of the Shrine of the Book that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can actually see what we saw at: Israel Museum Shire of the Book web site as they have put many of their precious texts online.
There has been much in the news lately about this period of history from another one of our teachers at the Hartman Institute -- Israel Knohl. You may have seen the article in the New York Times and it has created a lot of discussion and conversation here.
We also managed to take in a couple of movies as part of the Jerusalem film Festive -- a Czech Film called "Empties", that was very cute and a Jordanian film called "Recycle" that was very troubling.
And remember, all of this was just a quick walk through of what has been going on this past week outside of my classes!!!!
Now we are preparing for Shabbat. I forgot to mention that last week we had the pleasant surprise of bumping into Billy and Rachel Goldstein, Jacob and Morris in shul! We were all davening at Shira Hadasha -- what a treat. Tonight we are having some friends over for dinner. Tomorrow we will be davening at a shul called Yediya and having lunch with Rabbi Joel and Barbara Roth.
So Shabbat Shalom and I look forward to continuing our conversation soon.
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