Monday, May 31, 2010

Shelach Lecha

Having just returned from two weeks in Israel, it feels like a wonderful coincidence that this week's parasha tells the story of the 12 spies sent to survey the land.  Here are two of the places we "spied out" on this recent visit.

Ir David, the City of David, is the site of the original city of Jerusalem in the days King David conquered it from the Jebusites.  Over the past 20+ years it has been excavated and examined quite thoroughly.  One can imagine what it was like in the time of King David.  To take a virtual tour, go to the website here.

Gush Etzion is an area near Jerusalem, on the way to Beit-Lechem.  Modern Jewish settlement here dates from the 1920's, when land was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Jews from Yemen.  Destroyed more than once, as you can read at this site, this area is considered by most people to be a permanent part of the modern country of Israel.

Efrat, one of the towns in Gush Etzion, is a beautiful place.  You can read about it here at the website of Ohr Torah Stone, the educational institution founded by Rav Shlomo Riskin, formerly of New York City's Lincoln Square Synagogue and since 1983 the inspirational chief rabbi of Efrat.  During our recent visit one could imagine it had always been there - and yet we were told by our host that until the early 1980's the land on the top of its hills was filled with rocks rather than with homes, trees and flowers.  In fact, he related, it was a full two years after the current resettlement began that birds began to appear, realizing that the formerly barren earth was now welcoming.

Reading the Torah portion this week can be a reminder that Jews coming to live in the land of Israel have always faced obstacles, both real and perceived.  Whether to live there or not may be an individual choice, but no matter our personal decision we all have the privilege and obligation to support Israel.

Today's media are filled with discussions of the weakening connection of American Jews - particularly young American Jews - to Israel.

  • Is Israel perfect?
  • Is any country perfect?
  • Is Israel a target of criticism far out of proportion to its actions?
  • Is there diversity of political opinion within Israel?
  • Can one criticize Israel's actions while still supporting her?
  • As Jewish educators what should we be teaching about Israel?
  • How can what we teach encourage emotional engagement with Israel?  

Here is the article by Peter Beinart about the loss of liberal support for Israel.
Here is a response by Benjamin Kerstein
I suggest you read both articles.

1 comment:

  1. As always, your posts are right on target. This year my teachers agreed that they would like to learn more on how to teach Israel. Thanks for your insight.