Spirit of Zionism

Sunday June 9, 2013

I’ve been giving a lot of thought the past week and one-half here in Yerucham.

I believe these thoughts were accentuated while standing near the graves of Paula and David Ben Gurion, for, I believe it was he who opined that, among the many goals of Zionism was that the Jewish State should be the place where, in safety, Jews could lead a “normal” life. Others of his generation had had other hopes – that Israel would revive the people through working the land, or provide a renewed spiritual home, but Ben Gurion’s dreams were for freedom and “normalcy” at least in my memory – ” from this moment on, Jewish destiny shall be in Jewish hands.” (read my poster with Ben Gurion’s picture)

Yet watching the current reality, there are many within and without the Land of Israel who have questioned the current state of that dream. Young people I met in Jerusalem before this volunteer stint, spoke of a lost sense of purpose and, with no shyness or embarrassment, spoke of leaving.

But what, I believe, our little band has discovered in this town tested by the weather and the barrenness of its surroundings and then tested all the more so by the earlier, perhaps most necessary, but challenging settlement policies of the governments, is a town that is developing its own practical, social Zionism. Through the work of its Mayor, Michael Biton and led by NGO’s like Atid BaMidbar, Yeruham is working to create a population that, is knowledgable of its own ethnic heritage and aware of the teachings of a pluralistic Judaism and the history and values of the State.  A town that has pride in itself, its heritage and this country.  Citizens who are, thus, motivated to raise themselves up, clean up the town, work together to educate their young and bring new jobs, new business and new settlers. That positive spirit may not yet be everywhere in Yerucham, but we have found it infectious and the efforts of the Miami Federation and Miamians are manifest in assisting these efforts. 

miami partnership logo

I wrote of Little Chap in an earlier blog, his theme is ” Gonna build a heaven from a little hell…” Okay, this isn’t hell, so that may be “over the top” but the spirit of Yerucham is every bit as infectious as that number by Antony Newley and it is changing a difficult reality every day.

Rabbi Larry Halpern

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