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Updated: Apr 3

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I really thought that this experience was was pretty much over when I wrote my previous blog, but I can not resist sharing last night’s events. They say so much about this town and our work here.

Following a mostly routine day of great experiences, last night, the family who have been my hosts hosted a farewell dinner in honor of our little band.  For me it was an occasion to meet several people whom the other four volunteers had met in the exploration of their assignments, while my time had been spent in the bunker which is home to the incredible organization Atid BaMidbar. Following a wonderful meal, introductions were made and thanks were offered to us, and equally important, to representatives of the three organizations that made this program happen.

After the bbq, our group of volunteers, now called pioneers, serenaded the Israelis with a song for which new lyrics had been written by Ron. He is a most talented man, committed Jew and successful business man, but this was a side I had not imagined. Then came piano pieces by two of our host’s children and then, when it seemed there could be no more, Yoni showed us his family’s most beautiful Sefer Torah. Wow!

But even at 9:30 pm, there was still no time to rest as we were off to a local synagogue to hear “piyyutim” of North Africa, song by a man whose soul was on display with each note that came from his most beautiful voice, I’d say they came even more from his soul as he accompanied himself of a drum. Once more a drum.

Ron and I walked most of the way home before Debbie made her first run and came back to drive us home.

Arriving “home”  around 10:30 pm, I went back to thank my host Yoni again and he invited me to stay and speak to the next group he was hosting – a group of perhaps twenty young men from the local Hesder Yeshiva.  Hesder Yeshivot are the result of an agreement with Prime Minister Ben Gurion in which the young men make a five year commitment (instead of the usual three years), in which they serve in combat units of Tzahal (IDF -Israel Defence Forces)for at least 18 months and the rest of the time spend learning in the yeshiva.  Yeruham’s hesder yeshiva has added a requirement of community service.

Yoni asked me to speak to the Yeshiva students about Reform Judaism and non-Orthodox Judaism in general in the US today. For me, this was a most exciting honor as the group was curious, respectful and asked some great questions. These young men were reaching across some difficult lines and is another example of Yeruham’s deliberate efforts to build a more knowledgeable and cohesive Israeli society. I did not get back to my tsimmer until close to one AM but the had the best night’s sleep I’ve had here in Israel. For me I truly felt blessed.

Rabbi Larry Halpern

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