Today was a spectacular day! We began by visiting Yad Vashem! No words can describe what happened at Yad Vashem! No words even come close to capturing the feelings and emotions that our Christian friends felt. Yad Vashem is just extremely overwhelming both emotionally and spiritually... The way Yad Vashem takes a toll on your being is indescribable. We, as Jews are used to experiencing this, we never get used to it but it is never the first time or the last... A human being, any human being with a heart and a conscience needs no more than ten seconds to understand the enormity of what Yad Vashem memorializes. "When you enter the children's memorial you are one person, when you exit you are a different one!" That is exactly how one of our Pastors from Las Vegas described this moment... There is no need for further explanation.
After Yad Vashem we went to The Israel Museum where we saw the model of Jerusalem at the time of The Second Temple. I have seen this model many, many times but because of the context of our mission we were looking at very different places on the model than we usually lookout for. I must also add that we had a superb guide. Throughout the years I have had many, many guides but our guide this time Ronny Netzer was simply spectacular. Ronny is originally from Sweden and has a tremendous amount of experience with CUFI missions. His command and knowledge of the Christian Tradition was incredible and because we were there he took extra care of framing it within a Jewish context so that we could understand what was happening a little bit better.
This is a link to their website so that you can see for yourself.
The last thing in the itinerary was a visit to a site that is only popular amongst non Catholic or Greek Orthodox Christians. The Garden Tomb. This place is actually very interesting. This is the alternate version of The Holy Sepulcher. The Pastors in our group came here because many Christians believe this is the true site of the sepulcher. Beyond the fact that there alternate versions that I never knew about it was most remarkable to understand the perspective of Evangelical Christianity of what happened at this place. When I asked if they believed this to be the actual place of crucifixion, the answer was a remarkable one... "The exact place is irrelevant, what matters is what it means!" Again, I never knew it but that kind of theology where meaning is more important than magic and superstition is closer to the way in which Liberal Jewish Theology perceives the world. This moment left me thinking that I have much more in common with these Pastors than I ever thought. I understand that when it comes to political outlook we may be apart in certain issues consequence of the way in which we understand God. However, when one engages in interfaith work it is very important to leave politics aside... Extremely important.
We ended our mission with a dinner at Abu Gosh, a little Arab village very friendly to Israel since 1948. I was only able to have the hummus and the veggies because the restaurant was not kosher. Their hummus by the way is really famous and I must say it lived up to the expectations. During dinner everyone had a chance to speak and recall what the most important things that happened to him or her on a personal level in the mission were... I have no words to tell you how profoundly emotional, revealing and amazing this was! If I ever had doubts that these people are for real in their support for Israel this erased them all!
I am left with a wonderful feeling. This mission will not only be good for Israel but also for our community! In 16 years in Las Vegas this is the first time I have been engaged in strong interfaith work. I am happy that it is with a group of people that share our love for Israel, not because they "want us all to die so that the end of days will happen" (please get that out of your minds once and for all) but because they love The Jewish People!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּהBlessed are you oh God for having sustained me, for having kept me alive and enabling me to reach this moment in time.