The effects of this Mission can only be partly expressed in the written word; it was an experience. However, some of our participants have reflected on the Mission and share their thoughts below...
There are no words to express my thankfulness for being a part of the Synagogue Council trip to Israel; it was truly the opportunity of a lifetime. Our mission was, in actuality, the perfect first-timer's trip as it provided the most diverse and unique glimpse into the real life and pulse of the people and The Land. It helped me see and feel that we are all part of that; we are all bound up together in the soul of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. I was proud to be a representative of the diversity that is SCM and American Jewry, and part of the SCM team along with Alan and Jesse. The ruach, and in a sense, love, that our group built, was living proof that our overall mission is relevant and possible. This trip provided a crucial piece that is no longer missing from my Jewish whole. I have been deeply touched and forever changed.
Marilin Lipman, Assistant Director, Synagogue Council of Massachusetts
I returned Sunday from a ten day trip to Israel with the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts Unity Mission, and wanted to briefly share a little of my experience with you. The journey took us from Jerusalem to the Negev, to Haifa, and to finally to Tsfat.
This was my first visit to Israel. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, we went immediately to the Kotel. I touched the wall with the flat of my hand, pressed my forehead to it, and prayed. The Kotel is an overwhelming presence, so ancient, full of human longing and passions, and speaking of a larger life.
Since this was a Unity Mission, we visited different kinds of shuls on the two Shabbatot; visited organizations like the Gesher Center, met with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, visited a Talia school, met with Rabbi Hartman at the Shalom Hartman Institute, visited a soup kitchen, and an urban Kibbutz in the middle of what was a crime-riddled neighborhood in which the Kibbutz families are changing the neighborhood by modeling Jewish values.
The meetings were too many to enumerate, and the ideas will take months to sort through, but it was an enormous privilege to hear people from different paths describe their point of view.
At 6 AM one morning we went to a huge crater in Mitzpe Ramon to say Shacharit as the sun rose over the crater. It was spectacular, and the sun warm on my face and the desert air on my skin bring tears to my eyes now. I tried to imagine the Israelites in the desert, and was amazed by the actuality of the terrain they crossed. Somehow in my comfortable home in Watertown, MA, I couldn't imagine that.
I won't go on longer about this. Believe me, if you make the mistake of asking me anything about my trip, be prepared to have your ear seriously bent. My partnership with all of you inspired me to go on this trip, and certainly, the trip gave me a renewed sense of purpose in my work.