Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Diaspora-Israel relations

In the dark and evil shadow of Arab terror of Qassams and bullets - from a rpeort by Amir Shacham, Director of Israel operations, UJC/:

Amazingly enough, only a few days later I experienced another powerful three way encounter between these communities but in larger numbers: The mayor and leadership of Gush Etzion decided to spend Shabbat with the residents of the kibbutzim of Sha’ar Hanegev, to show solidarity and to strengthen their partners who have been victims of so many Kassam rocket attacks in the last few years. The mayor and leadership of Sha’ar Hanegev were thrilled by the initiative and went out of their way to welcome their guests.

It was not simple but it was done with love: A real orthodox synagogue was created overnight in Kibbutz Mefalsim’s “members club”, following 60 years of secularism. Kosher catering was ordered from Sderot and kibbutz homes were opened for hospitality. Only forty guests could be accommodated, and forty more were put on a waiting list for future EtzioNegev weekends. Within 24 hours MetroWest approved a special grant to underwrite the kosher meals for Shabbat but our contribution was much more meaningful: Our mission of business professionals from NJ, chaired by Jeff Cohen, Ken Mandelbaum and Steve Roth, was given the option to join this unique Shabbat meal in Mefalsim. We surveyed the group by e-mail and hoped that perhaps few of them would be willing to go down there Friday night to the land of the Kassams. Within a few hours, all fifteen of them said that they would come (if I promised not to tell their wives). We should all be very proud of this group who could be cynical sometimes but unanimously decided to be at the right place and the right time for their community and people.

I was sitting in the temporary synagogue of Kibbutz Mefalsim, home of Mayor Alon Schuster, watching the ad hoc congregation, most of whom had only met for the first time that evening. It was a diverse group of people representing three distant communities; they have different backgrounds and mixed affiliations. The tone, setting, sound and site of this Kabbalat Shabbat service was perhaps strange for many. Yet one could immediately feel how everybody was praying with much “kavanah” and how the ancient texts of the Siddur were really binding us all together to become one family. “The threefold cord is not quickly broken”. Some prayed louder than others but the last verses of the Kaddish were heard loud and clear around the Sha’ar Hanegev region and perhaps also in nearby Gaza:

עושה שלום במרומיו. הוא יעשה שלום. עלינו ועל כל ישראל. ואימרו: אמן.

May he who creates the harmony of the spheres, create peace for us and for all Israel and say: Amen.

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