20 November 2012
6 Kislev 5773
This morning I returned from my brief trip to Israel with our 48 juniors who have concluded their three-month High School in Israel experience. As always, it was a whirlwind visit for me but a joy to reconnect with our students and to spend time with them as they brought closure to this powerful journey.
In light of the current situation in Israel, this was a particularly intense time to be there. I am grateful to my colleagues here at Gann, especially to Jonah Wagan who traveled with me, and to the educators and administrators of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. I am also most grateful to and inspired by the Gann parents who gave their children this tremendous opportunity and who, despite how challenging the past few days have been, continued to support their children, the Muss administration, and me. A sincere “thank you” to all of you.
I am just now beginning to reflect on my experiences of the past week, but as I look back, I want to share something that my colleague Shlomi Dahan, the principal of Ironi Hey, our sister school in Haifa, said to me. We were eating breakfast in Haifa on Thursday morning, the day after the firing of rockets on the south of Israel dramatically increased. I shared with him that one of my best friends and his wife spent the entire night with their three children and new baby in their bomb shelter and were moving their family out of their home in Be’er Sheva for an unknown period of time. Shlomi and I talked about our Gann students being in Israel during such a difficult and scary time and what he said really resonated with me. “Well, this is a taste of the real Israel…Israelis leaving their homes, being called up for reserve duty, not knowing how long this “operation” (or war) will last. This is what your students are here for—to experience Israel.”
I am so proud of our students for being in Israel and experiencing firsthand what so many of us only see from afar on the news. In many ways, regardless of where one stands politically or how one feels about the current conflict, the most meaningful way to “stand with Israel” is just to be there, to keep trying to live your normal life—this is exactly what our students did.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, may we also keep in mind everyone in Israel and Gaza whose lives are deeply affected by this crisis. Let us pray that they may return to living their normal lives in peace and quiet.
I wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
B’virkat Shalom (with blessings of peace),
Rabbi Marc Baker