Israel & Other Travel Programs
Wilshire Boulevard Temple values not only its own community but the global community. We are all connected as citizens of the world. That is why we organize trips yearly to Israel and other destinations to learn and to serve. Our lives are enriched through experiencing other cultures and making a contribution through volunteer work. Past programs have included congregational family trips to Uganda and India, and of course, Israel.
Israel serves as a source of inspiration and learning to Temple members, from our grade 6 students in Brawerman who participate in a Twinning School exchange, as part of the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Jewish Federation partnership, to adults learning in many settings.
Marshall Zolla, former Temple board member, returned to Israel last summer. Read his words:
Pilgrimage to Values
The concept of making a Pilgrimage, a purposeful journey, is as old as passages in the Torah. Lech L’cha, God tells Abram, go forth, to the land that I will show you. It would add a meaningful dimension to our lives if we sometimes converted ordinary vacations into adventures of the soul—spiritual pilgrimages which enrich our lives.
A trip to Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan served as my restorative pilgrimage this summer. A week of study at The Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem provided in-depth study of Jewish Peoplehood: the Meaning of the Collective in Modern Jewish Life. The Hartman Institute addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people. Questions dealing with the concept of Jewish peoplehood challenged our minds and stimulated new insights and understanding. Israel as a Jewish and democratic state was examined through text study, historical context and the current reality of regional upheaval. Over 100 Community Lay Leaders from North America, of diverse backgrounds and pluralistic viewpoints, made the summer pilgrimage to study together.
Approximately 150 rabbis also make the journey to the Hartman Institute each summer for spiritual renewal and in-depth study with their colleagues. Add to this participation in a Diplomatic Mission of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to Israel and Jordan, with the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel, Ambassadors, Cabinet Ministers, military leaders and opinion-influencing journalists. The drive from Jerusalem down ancient pathways to the Jordan rift valley, past Jericho and across the Allenby Bridge into Jordan and up to Amman, is an opening of the mind and spirit. Ancient traditions clash with emerging modernity, with all its social and political complexities.
Want some tourism added? How about a long walk with friends in the old city of Jerusalem? Political reality comes to life with a learned tour of the settlement blocs; enjoy lunch in the Arab village of Abu Ghoush; view the richness of the inspiring collection of Judaica, archeology and modern art in the elegantly restored Israel Museum; envelop yourself in the sights and smells of the colorful and bustling Mahane Yehuda market; soak up several days of refreshment in the green and fertile Galilee; absorb history amid the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke and Ottoman ruins in Caesarea; experience the perilously close borders with Lebanon and Syria; and the joy of a warm and wonderful reunion with close Israeli cousins.
It doesn’t take more than vision and intent to turn your vacation into a life-enhancing pilgrimage. Perhaps it is time for each of us to seek our own ikkar, i.e., the root, the essence, the core, of our own personal beliefs and values. Why not trade an unhealthy suntan at the beach for a healthy enrichment of your soul? You want substance, meaning, values, friendship, beauty and tradition added to your life? Next year in Jerusalem. Make the Pilgrimage.
Marshall S. Zolla