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!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Up the Coast, a Warm and Tiring Day

You like warm?  We’ll give you warm!

You like water?  We’ll give you water!

Today was a day of warmth, water, ruins, and wonderful Israelis to get to know.

We departed the Dan Panorama hotel today at about 8 AM, and headed north through Tel Aviv’s famous traffic that is sometimes as confounding as any comparable big city in the States.  A few times we stayed in stop-and-start traffic longer than we had hoped.
But soon we left the traffic behind, found the main coastal road, north and traveled to Caesaria, one of Herod the Great’s architectural wonders of the Roman world.

Today's Caesaria, located on the coast between Netanyah and Haifa, consists of a beautiful reconstructed amphitheatre that, especially in the summer, hosts a great number of concerts and artists.  Our guide Tzvi first offered us a history lesson of the timeline of the Jewish people, challenging us to remember which era represented what conqueror.  

Then he staged a wonderful drama that included two native performers of our group, Alan and Laurel.  They were great, they were dramatic, and because of the superior acoustics of that ancient structure, we could hear them far away.

We then proceeded to the current archaeological excavations on the site.  Over the last few years a parking lot gave way to an uncovered hippodrome where, in Herod’s day, there were horse and chariot races. Today there are active excavations going on, including the attempt to reconstruct the Herod’s palace, the base of which is below the surface of the ocean.

After concluding our time there, we visited the Druze town of Usifiyah, had a home hospitality lunch in a Druze home, and learned something about the Druze religion and people.

There is a movement among the usually private and reserved Druze people to disclose more about their people and religion than they had in the past.  The twenty-nine of us gathered in the sitting room of one of the Druze families, enjoyed a very tasty, traditional Druze meal, we sat and listened Jo-al describe life as a both a secular and religious Druze person.

Sated and educated, we drove along the coast up to Rosh Hanikra, the northern-most point of Israel along the shore of the Mediterranean, to see the sea grottoes that had been carved out of the sandstone walls of the cliffs by the might ocean tides.  We descended by cable car to the entrance of the grottoes, and walked through and saw the layers of erosion in the stone, trying to stay out of the splashing waves that crashed up onto the walkways.

Finally, we ended our day with a wonderful visit with the leadership and membership of the Progressive congregation Emet V’shalom in the town of Nahariyah. We were received with a typical reception of food and drink, a sign of their true hospitality.
and we met in their very comfortable, clean, and air conditioned bomb shelter.  They described their community to us, introduced us to their new Rabbi, and led us in song.

When we were concluded there, we turned east, headed across the hills of the Western Galil to our hotel for the night on Kibbutz Lavi.  A modern Orthodox institution, one of their industries is the hospitality business (among others), and we are the beneficiaries of their choice.

Over dinner at the Kibbutz, we met representatives of the People to People Partnership, a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish federations across the country.  On Thursday morning, we will have a tour of Jordan River Village, a practical project of this new collaboration that includes Jews of Madison, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Tulsa.  So there’s a lot to learn.  That is it for now, and there will be more tomorrow.

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