Israel in the spring is not a place for people with allergies. Everything is in full bloom, and the countryside is a sea of green with patches of colorful flowers all over. It really is quite beautiful and overwhelming when you pause for a moment to take in the surroundings.
When the commute to work is one of lush scenery and the amazing vistas of the hills of Yerushalayim, one cannot help but enjoy the trip. I understand the Israeli wanderlust that leads us to the hiking trails on a regular basis. Who wouldn’t want the joy of an unexpected “postcard-perfect” view from the top of some mountain?
Last Shabbat morning, I walked outside of shul for a minute and was overwhelmed by the beauty and serenity of the day. All was quiet and I could hear the birds singing and feel the warmth of the sun as it shone upon my face. In that moment, I felt transported to my youth as a camper in Moshava in Wisconsin, where I enjoyed waking early to experience that same sense of contentment with the world around me (if only for a few moments).
Those of you who are planning to be here for Pesach are in for a real treat. As I have been commenting upon the last few weeks, this year’s rainfall began nicely and continues to provide much-needed water to our ecosystem. You will definitely see wonderful, flowery scenery while here.
While this has certainly been evident in the rising level of the Kinneret as well as the various aquifers, the result on Israeli flora is incredible. The trees and grasses are all a thick lush green, flowers are blooming all over, and there is just a simple feeling of overwhelming vitality around us.
This lushness is an interesting contrast to the snowbound tundra that I “enjoyed” while I was in the U.S. last week. When you travel 6,000 miles, the last thing you want to experience is lost days of work because of a snowstorm. Yuch.
On the flight home, I sat with a father and his 12-year-old son, who were clearly chassidim from Brooklyn. We had a nice chat and the father mentioned to me that he was going to visit his father’s kever on his 30th yahrzeit. We often see people who come to Israel for such reasons, and this did not surprise me.
At the end of the flight, the father was telling me about the arrangements for the trip. He told me that he had actually been born in Israel and lived there while he was a young boy. Tragically, his father had been killed in a terrorist attack on a bus, and he had moved to the U.S. when his mother remarried.
He then told me something amazing: this trip was being financed by the Israeli government. Although he had only found this out in the last few months, the government has a policy to pay for the airfare and seven days of hotel stay for any child of a terror victim who wants to be in Israel for the yahrzeit of a parent. I had personally never heard of this policy and was both astounded and heartened when he told me about it.
Think about the commitment that reflects. Any child, every yahrzeit, year after year, plus a week’s accommodations in a hotel. The more I think about it, the more I like it; it shows an incredible level of compassion, support, and commitment to the memory of the victims and to the well-being of their families.
As we approach another holiday here, I am looking forward to a new experience. In the past, I had to spend time shuttling back and forth between the yeshiva and my home in dealing with my family and my job and the demands of Purim. This year, I will be able to spend the entire day of Purim with my family and then be in Yerushalayim on Shushan Purim for work—without responsibilities to constantly run back and forth.
I look forward to increased time with my kids, as we visit various checkpoints to bring mishloach manot to soldiers, a project that we undertake as a family each year. We pack up to 50 extra mishloach manot packages for the soldiers, but are often unable to deliver all of them. This year will be different.
I wish all the 5TJT readers a terrific Purim with their families. May we celebrate it together in a rebuilt Yerushalayim. Alternatively, on the off chance we are still in galut, I hope that the merit of all the mitzvot performed on this year’s Purim will enable us all to merit the redemption and celebrate each day in the rebuilt Bet Hamikdash.
Kinneret Update: The Kinneret is currently at –213.14, a rise of 14 cm since the last update (two weeks ago). We are 186 cm above the Black Line (and are almost guaranteed that we will not hit it in summer–fall 2010), only 14 cm short of the Lower Red Line, and 414 cm short of the Upper Red Line. Rain is expected in the North from Thursday straight through Purim (bummer for the kids—awesome for the water). Let it rain, rain, rain!