Posts Tagged With: Jerusalem

Crime and Punishment, and Vicarious Atonement

I started off writing about the falsehood of the doctrine of vicarious atonement that is so central to christian theology.  I don’t want to launch a polemic, so I deleted what I first wrote.  I will, therefore, only write to state what judaism has to say on the subject, and since Jesus was a jew, I will leave it up to the christian reader to decide, research, and apply.

The truth of the matter is that not only is vicarious atonement impossible, but it is also much less improving to the world than how G-d says that we are to make up for our fumbles:

STOP doing bad——-START doing good.  That is all that is asked of us to start back from scratch again!

This real instruction, from Hashem instead of Paul of Tarsus who invented christianity, is so simple and logical that it really should be just common sense, and is the essence of mercy and love–two qualities that emanate from G-d but are attributed in christianity to the vicarious atonement.  It is absolutely unnecessary though to use the middleman of such atonement. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”  This passage is implicitly stating that the righteous cannot die for the sins of the wicked.

As correction to this doctrine in christianity which leads to believe otherwise, the proper course correction is laid out in the verse that follows, “But if the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Now, this could be taken to mean that in order to live, one would have to keep all the 613 commandments, at all times, without faltering.  This teaching, which is a common justification for the necessity of the vicarious atonement, would have to disregard a separate passage in the same book which states, “Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.”  Ez 18:17. We are told time and time again in this chapter of the book of Ezekiel, that a person’s soul is redeemed by the simple action of recognizing his fault and failure, and taking the necessary action to correct it.  This is what repentance is.

Repent!” This is cried time and again by John the Baptist, and preached by Jesus himself in the gospels of the christian scriptures.  It is almost as if they are presaging the false doctrines and misinformation that would later be taught by Paul and serve as the basis for modern christianity, which being so heavily based in the teachings of Paul instead of Jesus, ought to be properly called “Paulianity” instead.

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not rather that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ez 18:23  Instead we are given the cure directly before this passage, “None of his transgressions that he hath committed shall be remembered against him; for his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” Ez 18:22.  There is absolutely no reason for vicarious atonement, even if it were possible.  In fact, I can see no reason why it would even be desirable, as it does nothing at all to make the world a better place, but instead leaves one to feel let free from all of his missteps because somebody else took the punishment for him.

And this leads me to “crime and punishment.”  A friend wrote earlier on Facebook about how “jesus makes us free, we don’t have to punish anybody because of his sacrifice.”  There is absolutely no reason that anyone would “punish” anyone else for their sins in the first place!  When I asked what was meant, the reply was that, “there are consequences for actions,” and some other stuff after.  Consequences are not the same as punishment.  Consequences are the result of our actions.  Punishment is the attempt to exact justice in some way, by diminishing the faulty party.  Whereas “consequences” for a person’s iniquities are a natural response that occurs, “punishment” for a person’s iniquities can be handed out only by the one true Judge, the Endless One of Blessing.  Given this understanding of the difference in these terms, people have never been responsible for punishing others for their iniquities, and so it is not something that any vicarious atonement could ever make up for anyway!

This is all that I have to write on the subject right now.  I am not sure if anyone will ever even read it, and I kind of wrote it more for my own therapy than anyone else, so that I didn’t blow up my friend’s Facebook page with questions and conversation.

Keep in mind that the books of the bible are complete, and that excerpting one or two passages does not lend a complete understanding to the contents.  I suggest that you read this chapter (20) of Ezekiel yourself, and the rest of the book in order, for that matter.  And relax in the understanding that it is not possible for anyone to die for the sake of anyone else, but all that is really necessary is to stop doing bad, and do good instead.  It really is that simple.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Build Jewish (or Any) Community

As i have written about before, there is a mounting problem in non-orthodox (which for clarity I refer to as reform) judaism, of a dying community.  In many synagogues around the country, the average participant is 50+.  Now, let me make it clear, that if this is your life I’m referring to here, I am not passing judgement in any way, only displaying what I see as the facts of the situation.

In a discussion I was having with a friend, and in my thought process as I was writing another post here, I began to realize that there are a few problems that exacerbate this dilemma:

  • Basic disinterest- The majority of young Jews these days, seem to have inherited a lack of interest or atheism from their parents.  As a bit of perspective, we must remember that for many in their 20’s and 30’s, their parents were the first generation after the shoah (holocaust), in which their parents–if they had a love for any of it to begin with–often completely gave up on G-d.  This is, of course, understandable.  After all, why would one in such a situation not believe that G-d had abandoned him, and therefore conclude that there must not be a G-d or that it was all a waste.  Basically, these young jews lack the 3000 year old fire of the Jewish people, because they never knew it existed.
  • The draw of the goyishe world.  For most young jews, it seems as if the only thing that the jewish world has to offer is old people, dusty books in another language, and gefilte fish; while the goyishe world offers fancy and exotic foods, parties, art, and culture.  Or, in a religious sense, there is the draw of christianity that sways many because there is actually interest in the christian community.
  • In contrast to churches, where the guest of honor at every service is G-d, Jewish congregations often let G-d be entirely relative, or unnecessary.  To make things even more difficult for some people, G-d in judaism has no form whatsoever.  For many people this is confusing at least, maddening at most.  Christianity, on the other hand, has a physicality to their god, which lends tangibility.  Never mind that to the Jewish mind this is absolute heresy, this seems to more easily build understanding and devotion, in much the same way that most modern people, it seems, are more devoted to their boss at work, or fearful of their mother at report card time, than they are of G-d.
  • Churches also have a sense of obligation.  The congregants are obliged to attend, and participate.  Judaism takes exactly the opposite approach in reform circles, and any religious aspect is left up to the individual instead.
  • There is little to no activity at synagogue, or within the Jewish community outside of weekend services.  If you want people to take part in activities, it seems a given that there must be activities to take part in, yet many–if not most–reform synagogues lay idle 90% of the time.

There are, of course, many other problems, but these seem to be the main ones to me.  Now, what could possibly be the solutions?

I think that there are two main factors that must be addressed before anything can get better.  First, there must be a universal understanding as to the existence and nature of G-d.  For some, this may sound very forceful and dictatorial, but what company runs without knowing what its purpose is?  If you want somebody to take part in the works of a religious institution, those who do must be on the same page at least as far as this basic goes.  If people don’t want to be a part of this, thats fine.  That is what the community already exists of, however, and the reason that young people would rather not be involved.  Jewish community has to have something more to offer besides bagels and lox, and guilt from bubbe over not marrying “a nice jewish girl.”  There has to be a reason to do this, and it starts with the supernatural.

The second factor to the solution, as I see it, is obligation.  Everyone must have the obligation to participate.  Every spoke is necessary for a wheel to function properly, and in the same way a community cannot function without the participation of every individual.  We need you to live!  You make us better just by being a part!  Also concerned with obligation, is some sort of halacha (jewish law), even if it is what the community chooses.  Now, I would much prefer that everyone at least work toward full torah observance, but lets get real here; the vast majority of reform jews operate on the supposition that halacha is completely personal, and that its fine to keep none or (almost) all of the classic halacha.  If that is always the framework, community will always struggle.  Parts of a machine cannot decide what they want their job to be because it suits them.  Employees at a  company cannot decide which company policies are relevant to them, and discharge all the rest.  Drivers on the road cannot decide, each for himself, whether or not to stop at stop signs or for pedestrians.  All of these people are a community of sorts, and there is absolutely no logic to the notion that they could decide for themselves what is right or wrong and still remain a functioning engine, corporation, or rush-hour commute.  Why then is it assumed that this would work in jewish community?  Therefore I say, even if it is not full halacha, there must be halacha that is universal, expected, and practiced in the community if the community is to survive.  AND, this is not something that happens overnight, with anybody, so there should be the understanding that although it is expected it must be built up to–but it is not relative.

Third then is opportunity.  There should always be opportunity to learn, to participate, to develop.  There is no reason whatsoever that any synagogue should ever have an incomplete meal on shabbat, but instead, every week there should be cooking classes or groups that prepare for the congregation on shabbat.  There is no reason that anyone in a jewish congregation should not learn hebrew, in fact, this should be one of the obligations and there should be classes available to teach it.  There should be homework groups, movie watching groups, music groups, music classes, even pull in group Krav Maga lessons!  “Mitzvah day” shouldn’t be something that is done only one day a year, but something that is stressed every waking moment.  At every synagogue, the door should be open every day, and there should be something to come in and do.  This is the way things are at the Boys and Girls Club, and at many churches and community centers.  The truth of the matter is, if the door is closed, there is no potential for community.

Open the doors to your synagogues, and start treating them as living organisms, and they will become such.  Keep them closed, and they will continue to wither and die.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is Israel an Apartheid State?



What?  You were expecting a bit more, were you?  Why don’t we start with the definition of apartheid.

From Mirriam-Webster:

Apartheid:  racial segregation; specifically :  a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa

Lets assume for the moment, that the reference to South Africa is due to the fact that the term was coined in response to the affairs there, and that apartheid is not something specific to that region.  Apartheid describes, “racial segregation,” including, but I’m sure not limited to, “political and economic discrimination.”

This would suggest, that in an apartheid state, one racial entity would have total control, with the other or all others having no presence in politics, medical care, or economics.

Pushers of the “Israel is an apartheid state” credo often state as well, that Israel is participating in “ethnic cleansing,” and further that “Israel is the same as,” or similar to, “Nazi Germany,” in its relationship with the Arabs there.  Unfortunately for those who levy this argument, nothing could be further from the truth.

What are the facts?  Without a pro-Israel bias, a few of the unadulterated facts of the situation are this:

-Israel is a multi-racial state, in which equal rights is not only the law but is also the norm, in every facet of society.  Sure, individual racism occurs–as it does in all societies–but there is no stance condoning such acts in the government.

-There are Israeli-Arabs.  In fact, 20% of the Israeli population is Arab.

-Israeli-Arabs are present in the Supreme Court, Knesset (Parliament), University (as both students and professors), medical, commerce, and even in the IDF where–although their service is not mandatory–many serve with distinction.

Considering these facts, plus the numerous others, no logical comparison can continue to be found between an apartheid state and Israel.  And in order to conclude that Israel is like Nazi Germany, we would also have to see the round-up and wholesale slaughter of innocent arabs–which is impossible to see unless you have your eyes closed.

But what of the “occupied” territories of “The West Bank and Gaza?”

In 1947, after the arabs rejected the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine proposal of an independent arab state, and an independent jewish state, the region was gripped in civil war.  The Jews were able to turn the tide in their favor, and 250,000 arabs either fled, or were expelled from these territories.  250,000 would be a very significant number, if it weren’t for the fact that between 1922 and 1948 and estimated 300,000 arabs immigrated to these lands.  Why does this make it less significant?  The argument that is levied is that the jews must return the ancestral homeland to the refugees who fled the region during this time.  Considering that the fleeing of arabs was immediately preceded by the immigrating in higher numbers, it is not difficult to believe that they are not able to provide documentation for their ancestral ownership of these lands.

To complicate matters further, in 1948–immediately after Israeli statehood was declared–TransJordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel in a war of aggression.  When peace was reached between israel and her aggressors, TransJordan occupied and annexed the territories now known commonly as The West Bank.  Egypt occupied the Gaza strip.  To put it bluntly, the palestinian arabs have never had self-determination in these lands, and the implication that they were ever a sovereign state is simply misinformation.

In 1967, Israel was once again attacked by her neighbors, and once again was able to turn the tide in her favor.  By the time peace was reached between the parties, Israel had fought her way through the Gaza strip and the West Bank, and captured both Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula.  All of the territories that Israel’s opponents call “occupied territories,” are these lands that the state captured in defensive combat against multiple foes.  In an attempt to retain peace with the occupants of these areas, Israel has maintained a military presence there for the last 40 years, in exactly the same way that the U.S. military has retained a presence in every area it has fought.  And yes, those settlers that everybody hears about so much, they are Jews who are building neighborhoods in these territories, but they are building them on lands that are either purchased from arabs, or have no owner.

The next item of business that is often cited as “proof” of “Israeli apartheid,” is the building of the wall separating Israel from “The West Bank.”  The wall was begun in 2003, and the three year period following its beginning was marked by an 84% reduction in suicide attacks from the three years before, resulting in a 79% reduction in fatalities from such attacks.  The wall is inconvenient to many arabs who live on the Israeli side (in places, the wall places parts of the west bank on the Israeli side), but there is no denying that it has been a significant factor in the reduction of such heinous crimes.

I would like to talk about the Boycott Divestiture and Sanction (BDS) movement that is being urged on by so many celebrities, but it is already too late, so I will save that for another post.  I would also have liked to talk about the practice of apartheid in South Africa–where the term was coined–so that there could be an honest comparison, but that will likewise have to wait.

Most opponents of Israel simply repeat that which they’ve heard from people whose opinions they consider valid, even if these people know nothing about what it is they are talking about and are just riding the groundswell.  The next time that somebody tells you that Israel is an apartheid state, think of the jewish patients who receive care from the arab doctors, and the arab patients from jewish doctors; think about the tolerance within the Knesset even for radical arab members who openly call for the destruction of Israel; think about the arabs and jews who work together or adjacent to one another in business, or those who fight side by side in the IDF; or think about the restaurants, bathrooms, theaters, and swimming pools where arabs are welcome alongside jews.  Then think for yourself.  Don’t even be quick to formulate an opinion based upon this short treatise, but don’t condemn a nation you are unfamiliar with on the testimony of those who argue without facts.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smartphones, Dumb People?

There is a running battle within me.  Part of me loves having my iPhone and, at times, can’t envision productive life without it.  I have a universe of information at my fingertips!  With the wealth of apps available, many for free or very cheap, I can write job bids for everything from siding repair to a complete remodel, look up real-time prices at Home Depot or Lowes, and study Torah with a tap of a finger.  But here is the problem: with the wealth of apps available, many for free or very cheap, I can write job bids for everything from siding repair to a complete remodel, look up real-time prices at Home Depot or Lowes, and study Torah with a tap of a finger.

Sometimes I really wonder if the trade-off is worth it.  My phone has an eight mega-pixel camera, which totally blows away any camera costing less than $2000 a decade ago.  I can shoot HD video, edit it in-phone, and upload it to the internet within minutes (something I actually did earlier today).  Then again, because of all this, I use my DSLR camera less.  I don’t hesitate to pull out my phone, six days a week, to take a picture of my daughter with her clothes stuffed, and acting like a sumo wrestler.  But do I really enjoy these moments as much as I would if I were focused on experiencing them?  Perhaps, when there was no alternative, we paid a lot more attention and committed more things to memory.  A small example of this may be found in the fact that we don’t memorize phone numbers like we used to.  In fact, this is becoming such a dying art, that the mere idea of knowing phone numbers is preposterous to most modern children!

The dependence upon technology does seem like a necessary evil, especially when you consider how far things have progressed–technologically speaking–in the last few decades.  There is no denying that technology will only be increasing in societal saturation in the years to come.  It is awfully frustrating at times, especially when my kids are home from school and have to use a computer to do their homework.  For many of my classes, I have no choice but to use a computer for my homework.  Sixteen years ago, when I met my wife, I had never even been on the internet before.  I absolutely loved the manual typewriter that I had which typed in cursive!  I would take it here and there, like some kind of antique laptop, hauling with me the paper that I needed, and cussing myself for each typo.  Now, I can talk into my phone, and have it type out everything I say (with reasonable accuracy).  Yet, I come here to write, and write I do.  Perhaps “writing” is being a bit daft, most of the time I seem to just vomit out words through my fingertips.

I have been trying to figure out a way to enjoy the benefits of my smartphone, without suffering from the zombification that comes along with it.  I have considering deleting the Facebook app from my phone, and disabling the email app.  Sometimes though, I wonder why I should bother to keep it at all.  It is great to have the wealth of information available, but it seems like it could have an effect on decreasing wonder–although it doesn’t seem to have done this for me.

Maybe the answer is to become more like the Amish.  Instead of totally spurning technology though, I think I just need to be able to be stronger in terms of resisting the urge to open my email or Facebook when I have a free minute.  Maybe I need to just spend less time with earbuds in.  Perhaps the answer is to become a bit “Jewmish.”  The Amish make up about 2% of the American population, as do Jews.  But the hard part is that whenever I consider increasing my luddite nature, I can’t figure out where the line should be drawn.

I don’t really think many people are reading my blog yet, it has only been a week, so perhaps one day people will be combing through the archives, but if any of you have any suggestions, I’m open to hearing them!


Note:  shortest–regular–post yet!!!  Yippee!!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time, Humans, God.


My posts have been very long.  I am usually quite wordy when I write something, and I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.  I have been up way too late recently, sometimes writing blog posts, sometimes doing other things, but I need to get to sleep earlier.  In that vein, I am going to attempt the impossible: to write a post in under twenty minutes so I can still get to bed before midnight!  It is 11:38 right now.

The night before last, I heard some noise from the loft in our house (where my fourteen year-old sleeps).  I called up, “Patrick?  Whatcha doing?”

“I’m getting dressed.” He responded, in a bit of a snippy tone.

A pause.

“What time is it?” He asked, sounding frustrated.

“11:15 at night.”

“Nevermind.”  He said. “I’m not getting dressed.”

Another story:

A few years ago, I spent the beginning of pesach (passover) in Brooklyn.  We had just finished services at the yeshivah, and I went into the coat room to get my coat.  A man was in there, mid fifties I’d say, great big black beard.  With him was another man who I assume was his father, who had a great big white beard.  The younger man said to me, “It is so nice to see you again!  How long has it been?”

“Many years.” I said to him, with no air of sarcasm.

The older man then said,  “What is time?  A year is but a month, a month is but a week, a week is but a year.”

As we walked back to the house, I told the rabbi and his son what had been said, and they looked at me a bit sideways when I related my response.  “I was meaning in terms of a few thousand years…since we were all at Sinai.”

In Jewish tradition, the soul of every Jew–dead, living, yet to live, and even those who would convert–was present at Sinai.  Every Jew heard the declaration from Hashem (G-d), and accepted the covenant there.  In a way, it had been only a month, a week, a day.

What is time, anyway?  Time doesn’t really exist, except in our minds.  Time is a system of measurement that gauges our productivity in this world.  In fact, if not for the fact that we live within a society that demands that we give our time to it, we would have no need for it.  My son, when he awoke in the middle of the night, heard me awake downstairs and assumed that it was time to get up for the morning.  He had been a little under the weather the previous day, and so he had already slept a lot.  When he woke up, he must have been fairly rested, therefore it must have been morning.

Where does time come from?  Where does our need to set time come from?  In Judaism, the earliest example of time known to man comes from the dictate from G-d to set holy days, and to call off the seasons and months.  We are to usher in rosh hodesh (the head of the month) with trumpets.  Rosh hodesh, in fact, is a minor holiday in Judaism…something that most jews–I think–either forget or never knew.  We are also commanded to bring offerings at particular “seasons” of the day, if you will.  There is a dictate to bring the morning, afternoon, and evening offerings.  Our prayer times are set around these three offerings, and the dictate to twice a day recite the words of the shema, “love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, all your soul, and all your capacity,” etc, in Vayikra (Leviticus) and Devarim (Deuteronomy).  This is to be recited, “when you lay down, and when you rise,” and so there are certain times to do this which correspond to the appropriate times to bring the offerings of morning and evening.

What did this man really mean with his question, “What is time?”  Perhaps he was referring to the way in which Hashem experiences time.  We believe that Hashem (G-d) is outside of time, omnipresent.  If Hashem is omnipresent, then the past, present, and future must all be blended–a synergy of time–and so time does not really exist.  A year truly is a month, a month a week, a week a day.  When Moshe Rabbeinu AHS (Moses our teacher, peace be upon him) meets Hashem for the first time, and Hashem tells him to go to his people and bring them out of bondage, Moshe says (paraphrased) “What’s your name?  When I go to the Israelites, who shall I tell them is their G-d?”

Hashem replies saying, “I will be that which I will be.” Again, Moshe asks, and Hashem responds with a curious word as a name.  This name is so holy, that we don’t even speak it, though many have tried to decode its pronunciation.  He takes the words for “was,” “is,” and “will be,” and squishes them together into one word, the ineffable name of G-d.  What is he telling Moshe at this point?  I think that what he is saying is, “I exist outside the realm of your comprehension.  I exist outside of time and matter, yet intrinsically intertwined with both.  There is no name that can apply to me.”  Further, he seems to be saying, “You can’t put me in a box.  You humans think you are so smart!  First you name something, then you can subjugate it, then you can rule it.  But I cannot be named!  I cannot be ruled!”

The Hasidic Jews of the Breslov movement have a way of describing this that may not immediately make sense in this context.  They say, “I am nothing.  You are nothing.  Only Hashem is.”  In other words, everything that we see.  Everything that we count as being “real,” is really just temporal existence.  All matter will change, all beings will die.  The earth will someday cease to exist, but still the essence of the universe, the mysterious energy that animates all atoms in it, it will continue to be.  Why?  Because that which we cannot see, touch, taste, measure, or quantify, that IS.  Everything else “is nothing.”

So what of time?  Time cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled.  Time can be quantifiable–is quantifiable–yet we can never make more of it.  In fact, it is such a finite resource for us, that we often feel loathsome toward the prospect of “burning” time.  But how can we be so concerned with losing time, that we drive ourselves insane?  Perhaps it is because we have attempted to take that which is inconceivable, and ineffable, and put it in a box.  But with all our gears, and levers, the only thing that we can actually measure is our place within time, as it wends its way around our collective consciousness.

It is 12:37 now.  I am 38 minutes “late.”  I have not made my goal of time.  I have not, however, finished late.  Neither do I ever finish my tasks early.  I finish precisely when I am meant to.

Torah of Time

By: Natan Zalman
Is time as it seems?
What is a thousand years to a soul?

It is not as it sounds. A thousand are but a hundred,-a hundred

but a dozen-a dozen but one; a year is but a month-a week-a day-an hour-a second frozen

in cryogenic suspension.


My soul does not lack for patience,

it does not even know the necessity for such things.
A heart is but a pound of flesh. What is time to the heart?

Exactly as it seems. A second,       an hour,                 a day——all are excruciatingly

long as a thousand years.”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

T-minus Two Months and Counting!

This morning I was sitting with my fourteen year-old son, and I had a revelation.  “Today is the 11th of December.  I’m leaving for Israel in exactly two months!  Holy crap!”  For years I have dreamed of going on a trip to Israel (or just about anywhere, as I’ve never been out of the country) but it just never seemed to be a possibility.  I live in East Tennessee, currently, and tickets from here are often in the $1100-$1400 range.  In addition to that, we have four kids!  All of us going just isn’t an option, as it would cost almost half of a year’s pay for the whole trip (once you consider food, lodging, et al), and I didn’t envision a scenario in which I would be able to go by myself.

Last year (2011), however, I made the decision to go back to school.  My wife had gone back already, and was in her second year of her associates of sciences program.  With the fact that we are low income, and have so many dependents, there is a lot of government money to help us out with tuition, so I figured now was the time!  I was sitting in orientation, and they began to talk about the study abroad program.  I wasn’t eligible, since I hadn’t completed enough hours of schooling yet (they pay for half the tuition, so they want your investment first, I guess), but my wife was eligible.  I called her, and said that it was something that she should do, to which she responded that she had thought about it but never thought it was a possibility because of the kids.  I reminded her that they are my kids as well, and she may never get another opportunity like this again.  To make a short story long, she went on the program, spent three weeks in Paris.  I stayed home with the kids–that is, until my mom flew out here from California and we all loaded up in the car to embark on a cross-country road trip.  With my wife having the opportunity to take this trip, we decided that it was fair that I could take a trip too.  Well, I decided, and she didn’t argue at least.  My wife doesn’t exactly get excited over a lot of things, so….

This last summer, I was keeping my eyes peeled for info on the best times to fly, best carriers, and best cities to fly out of, in terms of rates.  To my amazement, I found that DC was the cheapest airport to fly out of, and during November and February were the cheapest times of year.  It was now in the realm of possibility, being $400-$700 cheaper than flying out of our airport.  How to pay for the trip though?  I could use school money left over after classes were paid for, but I’d rather not deplete those funds so much.  I decided to start a GoFundMe fundraiser, and see if anyone would be interested in helping an “older” guy (34) pay for the trip that he is too old to get for free through the organization Taglit Birthright.  If you don’t know about Birthright, it is a not for profit organization that sends young jews (18-28) on two week trips to Israel to help build their jewish identities.  It is a really great program, but it is limited to those age groups, so I was ineligible.  If I engineered my own birthright trip though, I could get it done for a lot less, and be able to see things that I want to see–which may or may not be what Birthright would have me see.  In addition, I would be close to Italy, so a round trip ticket to Rome would be affordable.  By going to Italy, I could not only see historic sights and eat some great pizza, but, I could also journey to Gaeta, Italy, and search for my ancestors records while enjoying the very same streets they called home!

The GoFundMe project was a partial success, raising about 20% of the $2500 I figured the trip would cost.  More would be great–and if any of you would like to donate even $10, I would be most appreciative–but B’H/thank G-d it has been a success so far!  This brings me to the point I am at now.  I have purchased my tickets to Israel, I will be staying with a friend in Netzrat Illit for part of my time in Israel, possibly visiting a man and his family in Har Hevron, and am still working on people to stay with or places to rent in Tel Aviv, and Yerushalayim/Jerusalem.  I still need to procure my tickets from Tel Aviv to Rome, and arrangements there as well.  I’m not worried about any of it too much, I know that everything will work out fine and that G-d will provide the answers, but I do need to get off my keister and get some of this legwork done.  Two months will have gone by before I even know it!

Some of the things that I would like to do or places to see in Israel:

-Surf!  February is supposed to be a good time for surfing in Israel, and I can’t wait!

-My friend Ofer wants to take me to the Golan.  He says it is his favorite part of the country!

-Visit the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee.

-Visit the Dead Sea.

-Zichron Ya’akov, a cute seaside community.

-Tel Aviv.  I’ve heard that Tel Aviv is a lot like New York, just with more jews!  For many, this might not be a good thing, but I’m excited!

-Jerusalem.  Old city, new city, arab quarter, the Kotel (western/wailing wall), temple mount (if at all possible), the shuk (outdoor market), and anything/everthing else I can possibly take in!

-Hevron, the biblical territory of Caleb son of Y’funah (כלב בן יפנה)

-Masada, the hilltop outpost where  our ancestors fought off the Romans before ultimately killing themselves/each other so as not to be seized by Rome once the siege was complete.

-Visit Ma’ale Adumim, or one of the other settlements.

-Take thousands of photographs!

These are just the things that I can think of, off the top of my head that I would like to accomplish in Israel.  With G-d’s help, may I merit to achieve all of this and more within the tight span of two weeks!

Once again, if you would like to help out with some of the costs, I would be most appreciative.  I have set up a tier of rewards for those who are generous enough to assist me in this endeavor.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: