By Jeff & Phyllis Denaburg
After having to cancel a trip to Israel in November, Phyllis and I went last week.
Our main reason for going was to visit family. But we were quickly swept up in the emotional atmosphere. On the surface, life in Jerusalem seems to go on as normal. But just below the surface, the trauma of Oct. 7 is still acute. The desire for the return of hostages is seen and felt everywhere.
It’s inspiring how Israelis have channelled anxiety into a civilian mobilization to help the families of soldiers, the evacuees from towns and kibbutzim in the north and south, and others in need. Phyllis and I participated as much as we could. While Phyllis was helping fellow Reform congregation Kol HaNeshama to sell strawberries they picked at a farm near Netanya, I was packing boxes of food for needy families. I also spent a day working on a farm near Ashkelon.
Israelis are also out on the street demonstrating, mainly on behalf of the hostages, but with political themes creeping back in. While the biggest rallies are in Tel Aviv, we attended two rallies in Jerusalem.
It’s also great to spend time with our Reform brothers and sisters. In addition to Shabbat service at Kol HaNeshama, we attended a Reform movement Havdalah. Everywhere we went, people thanked us when they learned we were visiting from Canada.
Although we were only in Israel for a week, we were caught up in its energy and found it a fulfilling and exhilarating experience.