Israel — it’s not just for the chosen

Gay Cantor Mark Goldman of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Florida will join the Jewish Federations of North America’s “See Israel With Pride” mission- and you should come along! A Wider Bridge is proud to be collaborating with JFNA on developing the LGBTQ portions of the itinerary for the May 2016 Israel Mission trip

MarkGoldman1

If the biblical stories are to be believed, it took the ancient Hebrews 40 years to reach this magical place — a complex and diverse tapestry, a blending of cultures, cuisine and fine art. This tiny area, roughly the size of New Jersey, is also home to what Travelers Digest (2012) describes as “some of the most beautiful people on the planet.”

Walk along one of the many broad walks, beach paths and trails in Tel Aviv and you’ll be astonished at the beauty typified by the people of this 10-mile coastal city that feels like a cross between South Beach and Ibiza. The beautiful beaches, vibrant night life and developing club scene that are so alluring to many, don’t even come close to the historical and cultural draw that resonate so profoundly for me and many others in our community. The modern beauty of Tel Aviv is overshadowed by the ancient and mystical city of Jerusalem, 50 miles and 5,000 years into the past. The contrast between a country on the cutting edge of technology and a community of ultra-Orthodox Jews following a religious practice, unchanged for millennia, is startling, fascinating and intoxicating.

The rustle and bustle of street market life a few hours before the Sabbath contrast to the serenity and calmness that overtakes the ancient city of Jerusalem as the sun sets and Friday night religious traditions begin.

One such tradition is a seemingly endless stream of young men dancing down to the Kotel (Western Wall) in celebration of Shabbat. Their religious singing, fervor and abandonment resonate with the depths of my soul in a way that is so much more authentic and meaningful than my memories of partying the night and morning away in London, Paris and South Beach so many years ago. And perhaps that’s the impetus of my annual 8,000-mile journey to the promised land. As a modern, gay 40-something inundated by messages of how to achieve the perfect body, accumulate greater wealth and be surrounded by beautiful people, Israel and particularly Jerusalem are reminders to me of the greater message of life. For me, Israel affords an opportunity to achieve that seemingly elusive sense of balance, providing an opportunity to be surrounded by a unique spiritual experience that transcends the latest fad or gimmick.

Those with little knowledge of the complex political and religious situation that is Israel promote a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Sometimes, this is compounded by latent anti-Semitism and a desire to support a perceived underdog. The result is the Wider Bridge debacle, in which protesters stormed a Wider Bridge Shabbat gathering with representatives of the Israeli LGBTQ group Open House during the recent Creating Change conference.

Continue reading on Sun-Sentinel (some browsers require logging in)