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09/29/2023 11:34:58 AM


Dear congregants

I returned last week after spending 3 wonderful weeks in Erets Yisrael.

I would like to share some experiences with you. After all, when we kept repeating in the davening “simcha le-‘artsekha ve- sason le-`irekha,” i.e., asking for joy and happiness for Your land and city, we weren’t referring to Quebec and Montreal! (And not even Teaneck!)

Like Gaul, my trip had three parts: for the first few days, I was with my son and daughter-in-law bringing their daughter (i.e., my granddaughter) Leah for a year of study in Jerusalem. We also spent time with my 2 grandsons named Shmuel: one who is studying in a yeshiva in Jerusalem, and the other who came on aliya 2 years ago. We rented an apartment in Jerusalem, in the Mamila district, so that we could be near the kotel.

After my son and d-i-law returned home, I spent a week in the Arnona section of Jerusalem, with my gracious hosts Ron and Mary Ruth Gehr. They are renting a lovely apartment in a very nice neighborhood and are working hard to improve their mastery of Hebrew in an Ulpan. Their 2 married daughters (both former students of mine) live nearby, so we were able to spend shabbat together.

The third week was in Netanya with my brother Yoel and his wife Rahel. My brother, as many of you know, went on aliya many years ago, right after college graduation.

Let’s go back to the first week: we davened two mornings at the kotel, and one morning in a shul in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. My son Yehoshua, who is an expert shofar blower, and always travels with his shofar during elul, had the zekhut of sounding the shofar at the conclusion of each of these 3 tefillot. One morning, I had the zekhut of receiving an aliya to the Torah, in a minyan right in front of the kotel.

On Friday night, we davened and ate at the Waldorf, which was across the street from our apartment. Since you always meet someone you know when you are in Jerusalem, I was surprised that there was no one that I recognized. That situation changed on Shabbat afternoon between mincha and ma`ariv. I was sitting in the Waldorf shul reading a Torah journal, when a young lady comes in and exclaims “uncle Menachem!” It was my niece Sandy from Baltimore, who happened to be renting an apartment in the next house from ours. Yes, the whole world comes to Jerusalem!

Let me conclude with a semi-political question. Our waitress at the Waldorf was a young Arab woman who impressed us as being very efficient and intelligent. As the conversation switched between English and Hebrew, I asked her where she had learned English so well. She answered that she had studied in high school not only English, Arabic, and Hebrew, but also Turkish, German and French (We had a 2-sentence conversation in French!) When I asked if the school was sponsored by the Church, she said no, that the school was sponsored by the Israeli gov’t. Now she is working for an MA in Psychology at Hebrew University and is also studying to be a film maker. She said that some day, she will be famous!

The question going through my mind, which I did not ask her: will she appreciate what the gov't had done for her, and use her skills for peace, or G-d forbid, for terror?  What do you think?

Oy, there is so much more to write.  Maybe to be continued. I wish everyone Shabbat shalom, and Chag sameah.

Rabbi Menahem White

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784