Shechiyanu! Volunteers with the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership arrived in Israel. The group, which included Saralyn and Jeff Elkin, Ellen & Jack Zager, Suzy Liebman, Lee Sherman and Shelly Malis, showed no signs of exhaustion from their 13-hour flight. The group ascended from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and had a stop at Har Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery.
“Israel is the mirror of the Jewish world, a place where Jews from all backgrounds and areas have a resting place,” said Abraham Silver, the group’s guide. “It’s the place that Jews have aspired to be for hundreds of years.”
Beyond the typical moving experience of seeing the graves of former prime ministers and other leaders, along the route the group saw the gravestones of soldiers who had perished fighting for the country’s freedom – some who were as young as 16 and had only been in the country for a matter of days. In addition, the tour passed memorials for Russian soldiers murdered while fighting to liberate the concentration camps during World War II, for Ethiopians who perished trying to make their way to Israel and looked just beyond the cemetery’s walls to Yad Vashem, a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust.
The fact that the Jewish State admires and recognizes these heroes gives a message that Israel is at the heart of our Jewish identity. While we may each have our own Jewish community and way of observing our religion, we are all tied to one another and all responsible for taking care of each other.
Tomorrow, the mission leaves for Ashkelon at 7:30 a.m. The hour-long bus ride will bring the Baltimoreans to their sister city, where they will explore together what it means to be two cities, one community.