Ben's mother told the story of her son; how he had completed his army service and then traveled, including a ride across Mongolia on a horse. Upon returning to Israel, he found himself called up again to serve when the 2nd Lebanon War began. She explained how he came to be one of several soldiers killed when a house they were taking cover in was blown up. Ben's parents decided to memorialize him by building a community nature path and garden that would keep his story and his values alive. Nature and ecology were important to him. So was community connection. So the path took us to places for community cook-outs, a place for gatherings and concerts, and a trail into woods where they discovered a heart-shaped boulder hidden in its midst.
While we had shifted in time to Yom Ha'atzmaut, this experience was very much tied to the experience of Yom HaZikaron, and we asked Ben's mother how she coped with the transition from one day to the next. She felt that it was important for the nation to have the two days side by side even though she, personally, could not shift into parties and celebrations immediately at the end of Yom HaZikaron.
From this powerful start to the day we shifted to something quite different as we arrived at Kibbutz Harduf. This is a remarkable community, bringing together many projects in one, integrated location. They house a school for at-risk children who need to be taken out of their homes, and they work with adults with mental illness (bi-polar, schizophrenia etc.), helping them live healthy lives with work on their organic form or in their workshops making pottery or jewelry for sale while living as part of an integrated community. After a short presentation about the community we were whisked off to the farm. There, we picked lettuce and herbs straight from the fields and gathered eggs that could not be any fresher - we literally pulled them out from under the chickens who had laid them!
Some of you may recognize Joseph Bau's art work. His posters and the modern Israeli fonts that he developed are instantly recognizable and very famous.
Today, his daughters tell his story and present his work. If you've seen the movie, Schindler's List, Joseph Bau is the groom in the scene where a marriage takes place (although it didn't happen exactly as depicted in the movie, we were told!). He and his wife were saved by Schindler. In addition to his public work that became well-known in Israel and beyond, Bau also had a secret life, producing all the forged documentation that was needed for the Mossad. In fact, he produced the necessary identity documents for Eli Cohen, the spy that our guide, Noam, had told us about who had brought such valuable intelligence to Israel from Syria. Today, the museum is at risk as the owner of the building wants to turn the rooms into new apartments. You can learn more about the museum here, and there is currently an exhibit in New York where you can see his work a little closer to home.
We had a free first evening in Tel Aviv - a chance to walk through the streets and see the bustling cafe life. At the end of Yom Ha'atzmaut everything was packed and we saw the city so full of life. The following day we started at the Rabin Museum. This wonderful exhibition which only opened a few years ago combines a telling of the life of Yitzhak Rabin with a social history of Israel during his lifetime, and the evolution of the peace process leading to the Oslo Accords. From there we made a short stop at Rabin Square and saw the memorial for him there.
We then had time to wander the Tel Aviv markets. Carmel market is for food and cheap clothing. Nachalat Binyamin market is a local crafts market that is open just two days a week that has the most wonderful array of crafts for the home, jewelry, and the like. This was the most shopping we got to do in a day!
Before returning to the hotel, we had one of those moments that seem to happen all the time in Israel - bumping into someone you know! I knew that the Alper family from CBS were in Israel the same time as our trip (for a family bar mitzvah of a relative). In the midst of the crowded streets of Tel Aviv on a Friday afternoon, we saw each other! And, it turned out that they had bumped into the other family whose picture we posted earlier in the week - the Feldmans. They had not previously met each other in Westborough and yet managed to figure out the connection in moments.
In the evening we had a wonderful Shabbat with Kehilat haLev. This is a young, Reform congregation, in the heart of Tel Aviv that has only been in existence for 5 years. Led by a 4th year rabbinic student, Efrat Rotem, their services are characterized by wonderful music and a growing community of all ages. I was invited to share a d'var torah, which I will post separately after this final travel review. After the service they hosted us for a lovely vegetarian dinner as we got to meet some of their community. We finished the night with a few songs together. The photo below is with Efrat and her partner, Ofira, along with two friends of my family, Ralph and Miryam, who have known me since I was two years old. They made aliyah to Israel (he from Scotland, she from Morocco), met and married on a Kibbutz, and moved to Tel Aviv over 30 years ago. They epitomize yet another of the many stories that can be found in Israel.