Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Character of Northern Israel: Between Many Worlds, Especially Today

Some of our group have organized morning walks, and this morning we started off with a fast-paced stroll around the perimeter of the hotel and residences at Kibbutz Lavi Hotel, where we stayed last night, and will do again tonight.  At a time when most kibbutzim have privatized, dramatically changed the nature of their mission, or are selling their land to private individuals for housing developments, Kibbutz Lavi has never (yet!) wavered from its goal of providing a socialist expression to those who choose to live there.  The local buzz is that the kibbutz is about to undergo a transformation into differentiated salaries, modified dining hall procedures, and the like.  If you are interested, please ask me more.

Upon departing on our touring from the kibbutz hotel, we proceeded literally across the street to the Jordan River Village, a project of Paul Newman and many others who wished to impact significantly on the lives of children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses or challenging physical deficits.

Throughout the year, groups of 64 children come for two week periods of time when they can, in the words of our guide, can be kids; when the parents can have a respite from taking care of their children on a 24/7 basis; and when the kids can live with kids with similar or the same ailments, providing them with more of a normal existence.

Their amenities included a zip line for the many intrepid students and counselors; a Zero Entry” pool for all who like to swim:  a water center who all who are present; and play equipment for the students there who find it comforting to play outside.

We traveled then to Tzfat, city of the origins of Jewish mysticism.  We do not know for certain why this was the case; the actual reason for the city to have been built there might have concerned the elevation (such a pleasure in the summer months to) and the history of the city.

We visted the artists' colony there on the way to the Ashkenazic ARI synagogue, ARI being the nickname of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the first modern day day (for its day in the Seventeenth century) mystic of Tzfar.  The ornateness of the ark inspires worship as well as tourist visits.


On the way to the Dan Nature Preserve, we passed a tank and soldiers on patrol.  We began to hear and tell inspiraitonal stories of the Golan Heights and territorial compromise.  Perhaps they will come some day.  On this day, however, we also began to hear artillery bombardments from the civil war in Syria.  None of us was afraid of these sounds, even though the distance to those bombing sites may have been no more than 15 miles.  Such is life in Israel today.

Following our time in Tzfat, we traveled to the Dan Nature Preserve to walk through the cold head-waters of the Jordan River.  Literally through them!  There is a large pool/pond combination with a zero-height entrance, and there is a 1st century synagogue that has been excavated over the last 40 years.  Both of these components make the Reserve a beautiful place.

For a fun afternoon, we had a chocolate and wine tasting at Bahat Winery and De Karina fine Chocolate.  And our group certainly added to the Israeli economy!

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