Day 2 : Giving Not Taking

REFLECTION OF THE DAY – “Giving Not Taking”

Yesterday as we stood In the Golan Heights overlooking Syria, we listened to the story of a the great Israeli spy, Eli Cohen. We sat under one of the eucalyptus tree he suggested the Syrians plant to give shade to their troops. In doing so the Israeli spy revealed where the Syrian bunkers were located. As a result of Eli Cohen’s efforts Israel not only gained vital intelligence on the Syrians but enabled Israel to be much more effective in defeating Syria in the Six Day War.

I had heard this story many times before but never realized that the last mission Eli Cohen carried out, the one during which he was caught  and ultimately lost his life, was a mission the Israeli’s said he could sit out since he had done so much already. It was only after he learned that the unique position he had developed in the Syrian government would make him the perfect person for the job, that he once again volunteered.

Our tour guide Tuvia Book shared that that was the attitude which inspired him in 2006 to return to Israel from Australia, where he was living at the time, to join up with his IDF unit when Israel was forced back into Lebanon. On the flight to Israel were dozens of others from all over the world who volunteered to return to Israel to serve in Lebanon. All of these heroes had been inspired by the same spirit of giving and not taking. 

We ended our day with a Kumzits (Jewish musical sing-a-long) on the beach of the Kineret led by former Reggae musician, now Chasid, Alon Ram. After singing soulful songs late into the night Alon ended our day with the same message, telling us that if we wanted to transform this world into heaven we have to be prepared to be givers and not takers.

Israel exists only because of the many who have selflessly given to her. May we, the recipients of her beauty and rich history, be inspired to give in all parts of our lives.

Israel/ Syrian border – ISIS controlled village in the distance


Name: Arielle Hyatt

Profession: Chorus Teacher, Dir. Non Profit, Singer/Performer

# trips to Israel (including this): 1(!!!)

Jewish Background/ affiliation: Reform

In her words… 

How do you get on this trip?
I recieved an email from MJE regarding the trip, and decided to apply last minute since my trip last year was cancelled.  I have never been!

What are your brief reflections on the day (or the trip overall)?
Yesterday was so exciting and incredible! We hiked down the side of a mountain to the world’s oldest synagouge. It was a challenge, and truly magnificent.  It was a surreal experience to sit on the same stones where my ancestors sat to pray.

Fun fact about yourself…
I played Margot in Legally Blonde on Broadway!

Day 1: On the Land and On the Food [MJE Israel Edidin/Heritage Trip – Beyond the Headlines Series]

Just an hour after landing at Ben-Gurion airport for the 16th annual MJE EdidinHeritage trip to Israel, our group of 45 participants enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner (go figure) and heard from an IDF soldier in the reserves about his experiences in the army. When asked “What is the most important thing American Jews can do for Israel?”, he answered “Have our back, be with us.”

As American Jews living so far away from the mother ship, it is imperative that we keep Israel in the forefront of our minds and have her back. But when the headlines about attacks, elections, and the looming existential threat of Iran are all we interact with, this duty becomes heavy and at times daunting. It is equally as crucial that we connect with the heart of Israel – the people, the food, the land, the history, the culture – so that we remember why we care and why we fight the good fight.

While in Israel, I will be blogging daily to do just this – to bring you Israel beyond the headlines. Each day, we will highlight activities, places, people and of course, food. We hope that as you read you get the urge to come visit yourself, and that it revitalizes your moral support abroad.


Name: Jason Parnes

Profession: CPA, assurance
# trips to Israel (including this): 2
Jewish Background/ affiliation: Secular/ Reform

In his words…

How do you get on this trip?
I received an email from MJE regarding a trip to Israel at a subsidized rate. I wanted to go back since Birthright so it seemed like the perfect opportunity! It all happened so quickly – I seriously can’t believe I’m here, it’s pretty surreal. 
What are your brief reflections on the day (or the trip overall)?
It’s incredible! It is only the first day and everyone treats each other like an old friend. 

Fun fact about yourself…
This season will mark my 11th year as fantasy football commissioner with the same group of guys. 

REFLECTION OF THE DAY – “On the Land and On the Food”

MJE Participants Enjoy Dinner At “Don Vito” in Or Yehuda, Israel

Back to that amazing Italian dinner. As always, we finished the meal with Bircat Hamazon- the Grace After Meals. As I shared with the group, the second blessing of the Bircat Hamazon, “on the land and on the food” refers to the land of Israel. This means we recognize the centrality of Israel after every meal. Israel is so central to our being, so basic to our continued existence, that it’s combined with our thanks for our most basic need, for food. One of the goals of our trip, besides inspiring our group as to the beauty and relevance of Israel in our lives, is to demonstrate the absolute necessity of Israel to the Jewish people. No different from food, we simply cannot be without Israel. This is a message we hope will be heard by all peace loving people as Israel continues to face external threats. Just as we all require nourishment to lead healthy lives, the Jewish people need Israel and we must therefore ensure she survives and thrives.

Bibi in DC: Purim All Over Again

Yesterday on my trip back from the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC, I was thinking back on the events of the past few days, and on the upcoming holiday of Purim. I had just heard (on TV, not in Congress) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver his historic speech before the US Congress. This speech was controversial because some felt –Jews and non-Jews that he went to congress without the approval of the President of the United States. Some felt it was controversial because he openly spoke out against the current policies of the President of the United States in his negotiations with Iran over their nuclear weapons program. And yet Bibi pushed forward and delivered his speech despite these objections because he believes that Israel is in mortal danger, and that if the deal being proposed by President Obama with Iran goes through that the very existence of Israel will be in jeopardy because this bad deal will allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The religious leader of Persia, Ayatolla Khamenei has vowed the destruction of Israel, and is actively trying to achieve the means to follow through on his threat by pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

Our Jewish tradition reminds us that this is not the first time that the rulers of Persia have vowed to destroy the Jewish people. Over two thousand five hundred years ago the viceroy of Persia, Haman devised a plot to destroy the Jewish people with the sanction of King Ahashverus. And to prevent this genocide from occurring, Mordechai, one of the Jewish leaders had to take a stand. He had to go against popular opinion. He would not bow down to Haman, inciting his ire. Then he had to implore Ester, the Queen of Persia who had hidden her Jewish identity to seek an audience with the King even though she was not invited. Then Ester would have to openly speak out against the newly adopted policy of the King to prevent a massive attack against the Jewish people.

The genocidal danger against the Jewish people coming out of Persia, Jewish leaders having to take a stand and act in a way which might get people upset, to speak out in a way which is unpopular and would have detractors, and to take a stand with the non-Jewish leaders to get them to change their policy, does any of this sound familiar? This is the story of Purim in the Book of Ester, and it is the story of Purim 2015. Our Torah tells us that the confluence of events in our lives and in the world is not coincidence. We learn from the Megilat Ester that the Almighty directs the events in the unfolding of the destiny of the Jewish people and in the world to help bring about the salvation of the Jewish people and of righteousness. The fact that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress came the day before Purim is no coincidence –it was planned to coincide with his appearance at AIPAC policy conference. But it perhaps there is deeper plan, a plan by the Almighty to send us a powerful message. There are moments when we need to speak out and to take a stand even when it might be unpopular or even dangerous –to stand up to evil and call on others to do so as well, as Mordechai and Ester did in ancient Persia, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday in the United States Congress, and as each of us need to do with our elected representatives and those will hear our message. And we also need to turn to the Almighty to ask for His help to continue to direct the unfolding of events to help us be victorious over our enemies like when Ester asked the Jews to fast and pray. Today is the fast of Ester, which commemorates Ester’s call to the Jewish people to fast and pray for G-d’s help in the success of her plan to save the Jewish people. It is a wake-up call for us on this Purim to realize the danger facing Israel and the world, and to remember that our celebration and prayers on this Purim and our prayers and the vehicle through which we merit the salvation of the Jews of Israel against our evil Persian enemies. Happy Purim!