By: Michael Weizman
This past Winter Break, our family was fortunate enough to visit Israel again, this time in honor of Talia becoming a Bat Mitzvah. We had taken a similar trip 3 ½ years ago for Adina’s Bat Mitzvah year, but this trip was quite different in several ways that are worth sharing.
Our first stop was a very meaningful visit with my late Bubby’s cousin Yonah who lives on Kibbutz Yakum. At the age of 96 and a Polish Holocaust survivor (like my Bubby), Yonah was one of the early pioneers of
her Kibbutz and is still as sharp as ever. She gave us a bit of history on how she came to Yakum in 1949 which amazed us all.
We then headed to Ra’anana for a bit of volunteering with Leket – a fantastic organization dedicated to collecting and distributing unused fresh produce to some of the neediest people in Israel. Sorting peppers and clementines side by side with Israeli volunteers was a great experience for all of us. Since Winter Break corresponded with Hanukah this year, we planned our trip around a chilly visit to Jerusalem and were lucky enough to light Hanukah candles for five nights in Jerusalem, which was truly magical. We had always heard how special the holy city was during the Festival of Lights, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Each night, there was singing and dancing in the streets of both the Old and New Cities, hanukiyot were lit up everywhere, and everybody seemed to be in a festive mood. We all marveled at how odd, yet amazing it seemed that Christmas was pretty much nowhere to be seen in the Jewish areas of Jerusalem, essentially replaced by Hanukah decorations and celebration wherever we looked.
My father, Hanan, myself and Talia all read from the Torah during a special Bat Mitzvah Mincha service at the Masorti Kotel on December 25th which was just another weekday in Israel and the 3rd day of Hanukah. Talia, surrounded by many from her American family, Israeli family and even some CBI friends who happened to be in town for the big day, was able to proudly bookend her Bat Mitzvah year in the shadow of the Western Wall. Thanks to Brad and Shelly Fisher as well as Bubby Carol and
Logan Reich for bringing a bit of Asheville ruach to our Jerusalem simcha.
Some other travel highlights for our family included a tasting tour of Macheneh Yehudah, a visit to Eilat where Della and I took the girls scuba diving and boating in the Red Sea, hiking in the amazing Timneh Park, a visit to Makhtesh Ramon, visiting an avant-garde pop-up museum and celebrating New Year’s Eve in Tel Aviv.
On a more personal note, something else happened on this trip that was very special to me that I would like to share with my CBI family. This being my eighth trip to Israel, I realized that I had never visited the Kibbutz where my father grew up (ages 12-18) away from his family who had remained in Morocco. Knowing how special it was to be raised with other children on a Kibbutz, I asked dad if he and I could visit Kibbutz G’- varAm together. Naturally he was eager to show me the place where he became an Israeli. The two of us drove into the Kibbutz (about an hour south of Tel Aviv and very close to Gaza), and dad immediately became emotional.
Seeing the orange groves where he worked, the antique tractor that he used to drive as a teenager, the dairy where he
milked cows and the rows of young children walking hand in hand with their teachers unleashed a flood of emotions and memories for dad. While exploring Kibbutz G’varAm, we learned that there was still one
couple that remained on the kibbutz from dad’s time who were very much alive and still married after all this time. We paid them an unannounced visit, and even though dad had not seen them since 1955 (or so) I watched with amazement as they reconnected, looked at old photos and reminisced together over a time gone by. Witnessing my father’s happiness and complete contentment at sharing with me this part of his young life will stay with me forever.
Every time we go to Israel, Della and I fall more in love with this land – yes, warts and all. Despite the prickly politics and other imperfections that we all know so well, this small country is our ancestral home, our religious and cultural heartbeat, and for our family at least, inextricably tied to our sense of being Jewish. At the end of this trip, our girls now 16 and 13 expressed how they felt more at home with their Judaism on this trip than just about anywhere else outside of their beloved Camp Ramah Darom. That sentiment alone has filled our hearts, and we are already looking forward to our next trip.
For previous posts in this blog, visit the Family Matters archives
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