AIPAC Policy Conference is like a three day crash course in the overwhelming challenges that Israel faces.  B.D.S. short for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions is the current tool to strip Israel of legitimacy.  It is old-fashioned anti-Semitism wrapped in a new package.  Iran's charm offensive hiding its aggressive nuclear ambitions, and the systemic reluctance of the Palestinian leadership to sit down and seriously make peace with Israel, were all discussed and studied.

Beyond the newsmakers and government officials from Israel and the United States, the personal vignettes of ordinary Israelis were for me the highlights of the experience.

  • There is Ofra Strauss, the Chair of the second largest food producer in Israel, whose company has expanded worldwide, sharing her story.  Her grandparents and parents fled the Nazi Germany, and started their business with two cows and a dream.  Ofra is the first Israeli born member of her family.  Every morning when she awakes, she checks the radio to be reassured that Israel is still in existence, and still Jewish.  Her children take the reality of Israel for granted.  Yet with all the difficulties of Israeli life, Ofra remains fervently optimistic.  Hopeful that the Palestinians will partner with her ventures and create a dynamic and prosperous business community.  Optimistic that the Arab neighbors will create with Israel, a Middle East that will bring economic pportunity to the entire region.
  • There is Yahaloma, the Resiliency Coordinator in the small town of Ofakim who exudes optimism, healing and hope to the wounded and their families from Grad missiles reigning down on innocent civilians.  Her unyielding cheer-leading in the midst of death and injury has touched an entire community and has won her fans world-wide.  A portion of her remarkable work is captured on the wonderful YouTube: PC 2014- The Diamond of Israel:

Yahaloma.  I hope you will watch it below and marvel at her exploits.

Vayikra our Torah Portion teaches us the sacrificial system.  The word for sacrifice is "korban", which literally means to come close. The message is one of faith and optimism.  No matter how distanced we might feel by our sins and failings, God is ever willing to welcome us in joy, if we choose to approach the sacred with offerings and contrition.  To the disheartened and alienated there is always the blessing of hope.

The citizens of Israel are the living embodiment of that positive spirit.  I heard their enthusiasm and witnessed their incredible resiliency.  They have taken adversity and transformed it into giving.  Their amazing work is infectious and deserving of our admiration and support.  This Shabbat morning I will share my experiences with you.

Mazel tov to David Gaffner, for a truly deserving tribute for his enduring dedication to our congregation, and congratulations to all our WJC family on this Silver Anniversary Celebration this Saturday Night.  Your support and steadfast commitment has enabled our synagogue to mark this special milestone.  I commend you and thank you for your affiliation and generosity. 

LeChayim! And Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Raphael Adler