Jerusalem with Etz Chayim
I am very excited about going to Jerusalem with Etz Chayim, especially about seeing the Kotel again. The last time I was there was in 1968, and my father blessed me–on the boy’s side. He even had a professional photographer take pictures of it. I found the pictures, and their large format black and white film negatives, some years ago.
My father lived in Palestine, then Israel, from 1947 to 1956, and my mothers was a kibbutznik in 1950, when being a kibbutznik meant backbreaking labor and often, hunger. By the time I was 10 they had taken me to Israel twice. I spent a lovely six weeks in Israel in 1978 volunteering on Kibbutz Gezer for a month, then touring around and visiting relatives. Then I did not visit Israel again for over 30 years. I kept up with the country though. I got constant updates on the state of things from my father’s brother Ludwig, who made Aliyah right from Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s, and from three American cousins—Sandy, Rebecca, and Ariel, who made aliyah in the 1980s.
But I did not go. I could always go to Israel, I thought. No rush. Nothing was changing. But then I read Sharon Lenox’s reports from the Etz trip in 2008, and I realized something: the country she described really sounded different from the one I had seen in 1968.
So I got up and finally went, by myself, in 2009. Israel WAS different.
The country was much more built up, but also clean, and the people were polite and helpful. Naomi Burns’ parents, who were good friends with my mother on Kibbutz Sasa, helped me arrange a visit there. Ari helped me arrange going to services at Kehillat Sulam Yaakov in Zichron Yaakov. I stayed with my uncle Ludwig’s two daughters in Haifa. I did research at the Palmach Museum and Yad Vashem.
I stayed in Tel Aviv for a few days with an old high school friend. She told me horror stories of Haredi men rioting and throwing dirty diapers in Jerusalem. These stories were corroborated in the links in the Israeli press I followed through Shomernet and Habonet.
So I stayed out of Jerusalem (except for Yad Vashem) and had Purim in Tel Aviv in 2009, which, I admit, was a little cowardly of me.
I followed up my Israeli research on my father’s family with a trip to the Ukraine in 2010. When a cousin’s daughter got married in 2011, I brought her a booklet about the family I put together.
And again, I stayed away from Jerusalem.
Etz is going to Israel again this summer and this time I’m joining them.—after I visit six or seven cousins. Because with a country changing as fast as Israel, you should not stay away.