October 13, 2005: Shuls

Before making Aliyah, I considered myself fairly knowledge about the current situation in Israel. We would often discuss the government’s disengagement plan and how it would affect Israel’s security in the long term.

But these were just philosophical discussions. Suddenly, I was sitting in Neve Daniel, which (like most of Israel) is just a few hours drive from Gush Katif. Many of my neighbors have children who lived in Gaza, others have done military service there. Now it’s not an academic discussion, it’s an emotional upheaval. People I know have had friends and relatives literally thrown out of their homes.

Still, as a new immigrant, I thought I would be immune to the emotion. Then I saw pictures of the abandoned Synagogues in Gaza being burned to the ground. That’s when I stopped trying to reason and started to cry. A burning house of worship is not a debating point, it is an image that becomes seared upon the soul.

On Rosh Hashana, I davened in the brand new shul in Neve Daniel. It was breathtaking to enter this beautiful new building that was soon graced by the sounds of hundreds of voices in prayer. It is a huge building, yet with the recent influx of Olim, including myself, we are already filling its sanctuary.

Many years ago, long before I had decided to move here, I visited friends in Neve Daniel. Before I left, I took a picture of the Yishuv from my friend’s house. The picture shows the shul under construction at the top of the hill. When I returned to Maryland, I placed the picture where I used to daven so that Eretz Yisrael would always be in my prayers. How ironic. The shul in the picture is complete, and I can pray there every day.

Yet how do I balance the image of this beautiful new shul with the images of destruction from Gush Katif? The former can never erase the later. Instead, it helps me realize what we all must do. We must continue to make Aliyah, to build shuls, schools, and houses. We must daven and work for the day that the sound of tens of thousands of voices singing Lecha Dodi on a Friday night will drown out all other sounds rolling off the hills of our blessed nation.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

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