September 19, 2008: 6:00 AM Friday

I feel like I am standing in the middle of a grand painting. All around me, as far as the eye can see, beautifully sculpted desert mountains extend like colossal ocean waves stretching to the horizon. Far below, the Dead Sea lies in gentle tranquility. To the East, the giant yellow orb of the sun rises over the mountains of Jordan while the full moon still glows down on us from overhead. Yet no photograph or description can ever convey the details I see. Moments like this must be experienced. They are what life is about.

The fact that we hiked here before dawn makes the moment even more special. The power of our legs carried us up the steep, rocky climb by Mitzpe Shalem. We looked for handholds in the rocks with only the moon’s illumination to guide us. We reached the top just as the sun hit the horizon.

No matter how many times I hike in the Judean desert, the splendor always hit me anew. At almost anytime of day, these mountains are impressive. Yet when you see them in the first morning’s light, the contrast between shadows and bright sunlight create a vision that is nothing short of awe inspiring. This is why I live in Israel.

I feel so far away from the daily headlines that inform us of which particular crook is running the country at the moment. The envelopes of cash may be bringing down one Prime Minister and electing another, but right here in the middle of G-D’s country, these events seem so insignificant. These mountains were here long before any of us began to think and will remain long after all our achievements and indiscretions have been forgotten.

Our fourth Rosh Hashanah in the land of Israel is almost at hand, could this be true? I have often been asked if I have ever been disappointed that my expectations of life here have been different than the reality. The answer is yes. I could never dream so vividly to imagine a place so beautiful, a land so rich. My early expectations have fallen far short of the extent Israel has to offer.

I do not kid myself, I imagine that this coming year for Israel will be difficult. There are so many challenges for us to get through as a country, one has to be concerned. Yet every time I grow dismayed that Israel’s situation seems hopeless, I think of these mountains and their creator. There are powers at work here far beyond man’s pitiful attempts to control his own destiny.

So once again we get ready to plunge into another year living in Israel.

As my son likes to say:

Bring it on.

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