JJC Israel Journey Full Day 1
After traveling with the Cantors Assembly Mission to Spain, it is an honor and privilege to lead a group of 26 to our ancestral homeland. After an overnight flight from JFK, the majority of the group arrived Monday night and headed to our welcome dinner at the Maganda Restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter. After filling up on salads, we feasted on shipudim/skewers/shishlik and headed to our hotel to rest up!
After a delicious Israeli breakfast- fresh breads, fruits, cheeses, with your choice of herring, egg souffles, and even ice cream, we began our first full day in Israel exploring Tel Aviv, named “Hill of Spring” after Theodor Herzl’s call to return to a Alteneuland. Our tours took us to 4 unique locations, all incorporating the music of Israel to tell their respective stories.
We begin at the Palmach Museum. Palmach is the hebrew abbreviation of Plugot Mahatz. Founded in 1941, the Palmach, the striking force of the Hagana, was the precursor to the IDF. This interactive museum gave us a 90 minute tale of those who made up the pioneer defenders of the State of Israel- teens and 20somethings (Yitchak Rabin was an elder statesmen when he commanded his group at the age of 25!).
The group assembles around a campfire and sings this Israeli classic (and a favorite of our longtime Cantor Abraham Marton z’l).
Seeing the valleys and the glorious land, in awe of the place they would be asked to defend and lay down their lives for, the group sings Shir Haemek.
We hear the theme song for the Palmach.
As we take the journey (with real live footage and a feature film made for the museum), the group connects with the different stories of those making up the Palmach- new olim, holocaust survivors, 2nd generation pioneers, etc. We hear about the struggle during the War of Independence and hear the melody of the heartwrenching song, Bab el Wad.
After the Palmach Museum, we travel to Nachalat Binyamin, the Arts & Crafts Fair adjacent to the Shuk. The group enjoys some free time and I even bump into Ami Yares and his bride to be (Mazel tov). Ami visited Jacksonville a number of years ago as a member of the band, The SHuk. How ironic!!
As we enter the Rabin Museum (20% dedicated to his life, rest to Israeli history), we enter a large room with video of the night Rabin was assassinated. The crowd and everyone on the dais chants the words to Shir Lashalom (song for peace), seen below. The words were found in Rabin’s pocket following his murder just 15 minutes after the peace rally ended.
The museum flows similarly to the recent documentary Rabin, In His Own Words (highly recommended). Since the State of Israel sponsored the museum (and not as a memorial to Rabin), they do paint a fairly streamlined view of every conflict- war/political campaign etc. Our group learns a new perspective – the height of the Generals of ’67 and the negativity towards politicians and military following the Yom Kippur War of ’73.
We feasted at Na Laga’at Center (Na Laga’at means “please to touch”), located at the Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv. The Center is comprised of the Nalaga’at Theater, home to the Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble. We ate at Cafe Kapish, served by very friendly waiters who also were deaf.
We were blessed to see the performance “Not by Bread Alone,” an interactive and thought provoking story in which the actors share their hopes and dreams with the audience. One of the most striking aspects of this performance is the choreography- there were a number of emotional moments in which the main narrator (deaf and blind) maneuvered across the stage with the helpful hands and arms of his actor counterparts. It really was poetry in motion.
An older woman, who in the story courts an older gentleman, plays a song on the keyboard that she remembers from childhood (written in 1939). The audience is given the lyrics to sing along with her beautiful playing.
At the conclusion of the program, the audience is again asked to join in with another song- actors make out the sign language so one can sing the song with their hands and their mouths (unfamiliar but stirring song).
The evening culminates a powerful day showing the spirit of Israel and the spirit of Israelis- strongest when they work together to create such impactful moments. I’m so grateful to have experienced such a moment this evening!