July 26, 2001
Torah to Tel Aviv
We were together in a small room, about 10 of us. Four of us were from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. I stood with Jimmy Delshad, our temple's past president; his wife, Lonnie, and Temple Treasurer Kam Hekmat, as well as two members of an L.A. fact-finding mission, David Rubin and Dr. Mark Barak. We were bending over the scroll of a Torah, along with five rabbis, all dressed in combat fatigues. Each rabbi was scrutinizing it with an erudite eye.
The rabbis stood up, and pronounced the Torah not merely kosher, but exemplary. We all smiled. A second favorable rabbinical opinion was pronounced over the second Torah we had brought.
We had carried the Torahs several thousand miles to this army base in Tel Aviv. Two months ago, we had been told that the soldiers of Israel were short on Torahs; there were not enough for the various army bases around the country. They had received several from Romania, but none were usable -- all had to be placed in the genizah (burial closet).
Now there was joy. One of the Torahs we brought came from Sinai Temple, and one was given personally, through the generosity of Max Webb. Now, as we gave them to the troops to use while patrolling in Samaria, we danced around the room, clutching the Torah, singing and clapping. It was a private Simchat Torah.
Despite the unease reported here in the papers, Israel remains the vital, remarkable country of our memory, and of our dreams. A land of 6 million people, it has a GNP equal to the 100,000 million inhabitants of its Arab neighbors, with more software start-up companies than any other country in the world outside of the United States -- not per capita, but in absolute numbers.
It is a leader in medical research, scholarship and technology -- and all this and much more achieved in a country battered by war, constantly under threat, derided and dismissed.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was gracious enough to meet with our small group. As the rabbi, I had the zechut (privilege) of pronouncing the traditional Jewish blessing upon meeting a head of state; little did the authors of that blessing imagine that it would be bestowed upon a Jewish head of state, in a modern state of Israel!
Still nothing moved me quite as much as dancing with the Torah in that small room in Tel Aviv. We had come to share what Jews always share, the Torah.
If there is a threat to us in visiting Israel, it is a threat to our complacency and indifference. We are the first Jews in over two millennia with the chance to visit a Jewish state. For this we prayed, for this we danced in the streets.
Visit Israel. Show your children that you are not afraid. Show our sisters and brothers that they are not alone.