June 2, 2018 - Conference and Playing Hooky

Up early and back to the conference.  Shacharitwas as moving as the evening service.  Led by young leaders in the movement, aliyot were given to a variety of people who had been of service to the movement.  While similar to Shabbat worship at a URJ Biennial, there was a distinctive feel and sound unique to Israel Reform movement.  

Following the service, small group sessions began: introductions to the music of IMPJ communities and the artists/spiritual leaders that create it, to the work of the Israel Religious Action Center, the social justice component of the work of the IMPJ, spiritual music and meditation sessions, sessions for Israelis, sessions for the international track, sessions for spiritual growth, sessions for social justice activists, sessions for Reform Jews of all shapes, sizes and colors.  So why would I play hooky?

Toward the end of the day, after Mincha, the afternoon prayer service, I left the convention, skipping a small session and the closing plenary.  I had to take a cab, because there the trains, buses, and all public transportation does not run on Shabbat (an issue with the IRAC is grappling).  Unfortunately, this was my one opportunity to meet with friends whom we met when we lived in Israel 20 years ago.  They live in a town called K’far Haoranim, an extension of Modiin, a city of about 40,000 residents.  This city was the ancient home of the Maccabees, and currently sits on the green line, an invisible line that marks the pre-1967 border of Israeli territory. In fact on a map, my friends, who live on a corner lot, actually live on the “wrong” side of the line, while their neighbors live in Israel proper.  As I arrived and reconnected with old friends, I could not help but see all that I had been experiencing coming to light in the home of an average Israeli: all the sides and contradictions being lived out under the roof of a secular Israeli family.

My friends have 4 children, the oldest 2 are the same age, within weeks, of my children.  The oldest child, whose picture with Quin hangs on the wall of my study, attended a special mechina, preparation program, for a year after high school graduation and then enlisted in the army. Her brother is now headed down the same path.  Pride, anxiety, fear, obligation, and love are emotions that are thrown into a blender and confused for the parents of Israeli soldiers.  And this mix of emotions, leads Israelis to embrace the time they have together and appreciate life in a profound way.  It reminded me that I am American, and can only imagine what life is about for an Israeli.  

Though playing hooky, my visit allowed me to start tying all the pieces of what I had been experiencing together.  It was a great and important addition to the formal mission.  

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