It has been a full week in Jerusalem. You may have noticed Israel in the news lately, whether for its heroic role in helping 400 members of the White Helmets

and their families escape Syria, or the renewed violence on the border with Gaza. In the middle of these international affairs, there have been three domestic issues front and centre in Israeli news. In the span of 24 hours, Israel passed a controversial nation-state bill; denied surrogacy rights to gay men ; and called a Conservative Rabbi in for questioning for having officiated a wedding.

I’d be glad to discuss any of these in detail, but suffice it to say it has been a difficult week for those of us whose vision for Israel is inclusive and progressive. These decisions pose a challenge to Israeli society and Israel-diaspora relations. Add to this the fact that a one hundred kilo stone fell from the Western Wall onto the egalitarian plaza (where I officiated at the bar mitzvah of one of our Temple families just over two weeks ago), and it has certainly not been dull!

I will tell you, though, that last Sunday I was in Tel Aviv and was inspired to witness some of the protests against the discriminatory surrogate law. I saw thousands of Israeli citizens, demonstrating peacefully with their families, and with many political and cultural leaders. They held signs saying “ואהבת לרעך כמוך”, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The scene brought to mind much of my learning at the Hartman Institute this summer, where we have focused on human dignity, ethics, and derekh eretz (common decency).

In Tel Aviv, I also met with Noam, a superb tour guide with whom I have led trips in the past, and we spent some time dreaming up new Israel trip ideas for Temple. There is so much to see, so much to learn, and so much to do. As complicated as the politics can be, Israel remains an absolutely extraordinary place.

It has been a privilege to spend this month walking the streets of Jerusalem and seeing the vibrancy of Israeli society; exploring our traditions in depth, and experiencing Israeli efforts to live our best Jewish values. In this time, I have been blessed with superb teachers and superlative colleagues, rabbis from across North America. And now we all go our separate ways, to bring that teaching home.

I look forward to rejoining Temple on Shabbat this Saturday morning, and entering into our preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I hope to see you soon.

Shalom from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Lisa Grushcow