Sunday afternoon, May 22, 2011, my kids board a plane and fly off to Israel.
Exhibit One, my 21 year old daughter, and Exhibit Two, my 19 year old son, are spending 10 days there as part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program.
I am very excited for them. I’ve never been to Israel. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Japan, either)
I am sure they will be taken around to the usual places… Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, Masada. And most importantly, to my mind, Jerusalem, especially the Old City. I know they will have a good time and make new friends. And they will, no doubt, be given an opportunity to get their photo taken on a camel. The mind boggles at the thought of Exhibit One voluntarily getting within spitting distance of a desert Cadillac. Camels are notoriously ill-tempered beasts.
I am hoping the trip will have a positive long-term effect on them in that it helps connect them even more strongly to their land, their people and their religion. They will get to see with their own eyes the places with which I have only connected intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of photos and film clips of The Kotel (i.e. The Western Wall). They will get to stand in front of it and touch with their own hands the ancient stone blocks.
How I envy them! My children were born as Jews. They grew up in a Jewish home, attended full-time hebrew day school, had Shabbos dinners, Passover seders, Hanukah parties, bar and bas mitzvah celebrations, and went up north to sleep over at Jewish summer camps. And now they will get a chance to experience something that has been unattainable for most Jews throughout our history… to be in Israel, in Jerusalem, at a time when the land belongs once again to the Jewish people. How I envy them!
Today is the 33rd day of the Omer period… the 7 weeks between the beginning of Passover and the holy days of Shavuos (the biblical Feast of Weeks) when we commemorate G-d giving us the Torah on Mount Sinai. While these weeks are a period of great solemnity, this day… Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the 49-day Omer period… is a period of celebration and joy.
This year more than ever.