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Jul 9 2014

Should I Cancel My Family Vacation to Israel?

By at 4:03 pm

A camel beside a car in Israel

In two weeks, I am scheduled to visit Israel with my family, including my two young daughters. We have been talking about this trip with them for weeks, excitedly planning each detail. My 4-year-old has learned a great deal about Israel in her preschool this year. She knows about the shuk (market) and the beaches. She knows the signs we will see with Hebrew letters and the food we might taste. She knows the Passover story and about how the Jewish people fled slavery in Egypt and came to Israel. But most important, she has told us about the notes to God she plans to put into the Kotel (Western Wall).

While I have a strong desire to show my children Israeli culture and Jewish holy sites, a major impetus for this trip was also to visit my 93-year-old grandmother, who recently lost her younger brother. I also want to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my wife’s cousins along with all their young children–all people who I love and miss.

Of course, as I write this, rockets are raining down on Israel, traveling ever deeper into its heart. Tens of thousands of reservists are being called up and more than a million Israelis are in bomb shelters. Air raid sirens can be heard in major cities like Tel Aviv, and Twitter and YouTube allow us all to see this in real time. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 15 2013

Friday Night: What’s Truly Holy About the Western Wall

By at 1:57 pm

women of the wall prayingThe Western Wall or Kotel, archaeologically impressive though it may be, is not holy to me in a conventional sense–and recent events have made it less holy in my eyes, though not in the ways you might think.

Many, many Jews consider the Western Wall to be holy because it is the oldest remaining structure from the time of the Temple. It’s not, mind you, even a wall of the Temple itself–it’s just a retaining wall around the Temple Mount. To me, this makes the wall interesting, poignant, historically critical, and relevant–but not inherently holy. Read the rest of this entry →

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