As the plane approached the shoreline of Tel Aviv/Yaffo, the pull of the “magnet” was clearly felt. The excitement rose as we touched ground and were surrounded by people clapping, hugging and shedding tears of joyful reunion in the beautiful new Ben Gurion airport.
Judy was our designated retriever, and she whisked Susan and me to our lovely and quaint Mount Zion Hotel. Through a degree of “protekzia”, we were upgraded to a suite. That little bit of information was not lost on Karen, the “kalah” (bride). The next day, she came with her friends. We prepared cookies and drinks, even though Karen was fasting on her wedding day. For the next three hours, a beautician was fussing with her hair, while another lady performed all kinds of rituals on her face and hands. Finally, she was dressed and looked beautiful in her wedding gown. How is it possible to keep a dry eye at such a sight?
The “chuppa” (canopy) was outside (as was the meal) amidst breathtaking scenery. After the solemn ceremony, everyone stood and sang “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem.” Then the huge congregation broke into song and dance. The stars twinkled and the trees waved. Israel's children had come home.
The next day was filled with equal excitement. My grandson, Tzviki (called Tzvi in the army), was being sworn into the army. We drove to Latrun, made famous during the 1948 War of Independence. Thousands of people cheered as scores of soldiers marched onto a huge stage to the tunes of martial music. They assumed positions in groups or forty as they took the oath to defend their country against all enemies. Each recruit received a Tnach (bible) and a gun. There was a bugle call to honor the fallen soldiers. The audience stood to sing the Hatikvah. To me, this represented another thrilling and defining moment of the State of Israel.
As night fell and the moon appeared, the Yahrzeit of my father began. As the people were leaving, my grandson, Dani, called out “Maariv! (evening prayer) and I was immediately surrounded by more than ten men for the minyan to permit me to recite the Kaddish.
The next morning, Dani picked me up at our hotel and drove me to the Kotel (Western Wall). It was a Thursday morning and Bar Mitzvahs were being conducted all around us. Dani picked out a shulchan (table) and told me to start the service. Soon, we were again joined by a minyan. For me to have had the privilege of leading the service, be “called up” to the Torah and recite the Kaddish at this sacred site was, in my opinion, a great tribute to my father.
We will now be busy with the “sheva brachot” (seven days of celebration after the wedding), attending another wedding and being part of the great miracle of the rejuvenation of the Jewish people upon their ancient homeland. Can anything be closer to “Gan Eden” (the Garden of Eden) in this world?
Rabbi Norbert Weinberg