A long-awaited trip to Israel

In Israel with Tehilloh

My second daughter, Tehilloh, is very excited, as in about a month, God willing, she and I will be spending eight days together in Israel. She will become Bat Mitzvah at the end of June, and this trip to Israel, her first, is her special birthday present from me and my wife.

I have the privilege of visiting Israel often, but for various reasons, my wife gets there only occasionally, and my children not at all. As such, it is a challenge to ensure that our children share our passion for Israel and remain aware of the fact that Israel lies at the centre of all Jewish religious, political and national aspirations. It is too easy for them to spend their childhood in the comfort of Golders Green without properly understanding the importance of Israel and the focal role that it ought to play in their lives and objectives. How does one convey to children living in a Diaspora that is largely happy and supportive of their religious lives that living outside Israel is not ideal? How does one teach Diaspora children to comprehend the miracle of the Jewish return to the Land, celebrate Israel’s successes, commiserate with her failings and identify with Israel and Israelis? How does one make them appreciate that the heart of the Jewish people beats not in Golders Green or Boro Park, but in Jerusalem?

One way that we have devised is to try to take each child for a private, intensive tour of Israel as the main part of the celebration of their religious maturity. I took our eldest daughter three years ago, but I hope that as we get further down the family, my wife will be able to take some of the children for their special tour. The rest of the celebration will be modest – a dinner for family and friends and a Se’udah She’lishit hosted by our community – but the trip to Israel is seen as the ‘big’ experience. While we are there, I hope to take Tehilloh to key places of religious and historical interest (she’s been researching where she would like to go), see some friends, engage in a chessed project and visit a couple of famous people. But mostly, I want Tehilloh to have a fabulous time soaking up the incomparable atmosphere of the Land, to experience its smells, sounds, people, craziness and Jewishness so that she too will get the ‘Israel bug’ that will fill her dreams and aspirations, as my wife and I did years ago. I am confident that this trip will do the job and enable her to understand why when I return from one trip to Israel, I can’t wait to plan the next.

As you can tell, I’m as excited as Tehilloh, even though I’ve done it all before, not least to get eight whole days of private daughter-daddy time. But most of all I’m excited and blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to strengthening Tehilloh’s Jewish identity and helping her to build her connection with our Land.
1 response
As someone who made Aliyah and left a close knit community of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn 16 years ago, I can feel your tension as if it were my own. However, it was in the reverse. As the "child", I needed to explain to my beloved parents why I felt that being in Brooklyn wasn't enough.

Some of the reasons I gave are perhaps less relvant today. As the westernization of Israeli culture acclerates and as the awareness for quality of life concerns in London and the US is heightened, the ability to externally differentiate between Israel and London or the US diminishes.

I firmly believe that it is not simply experiencing extreme hikes or viewing breathtaking, panoramic views that will provide the "bug". You can find those outside of Israel as well.

I would suggest focusing on those things that only Israel can provide. That the tours be with Tanakh in hand (and I can refer you to tour guides who specialize in this). That the ground speak to you and your daughter not only through its scenic beauty but through its divinely guided history.

To visit Tel Azeka and stand where David stood and faced Goliath. Look around - would we have been courageous enough to abandon the shelter of the Tel? Who is the Goliath that we fear and what stone shall we wield to bring him down?

Walk on derekh avot in Gush Etzion and envision the three day journey before the Akeidah. How long can you maintain silence before it gets uncomfortable? Look around - notice the local shepherds - there ARE sheep one could get later on. Look around- which mountain was it? Can you see it from afar? How close did you need to get before you could see it? How close are you to your goals? Can you see the end in sight? How does it feel before you can see the end?
How did it feel on the way on derekh avot? Did it help knowing the road was trodden before? What can you learn for your life from that?

I'm sure you get the idea.

Mazal Tov and enjoy your trip. If you're around - feel free to drop by -

Gad Dishi