A Wider Bridge LGBT Journey to Israel alumnus Alex Boda continues to look back at a trip in his special blog.
On the 6th day of our journey in Israel, we made our way to the north, to the multicultural city of Haifa, Israel’s beautiful port city – about 90 minutes north of Tel Aviv. We briefly toured the Baha’i Gardens which were lovely and elegant, and Hillel spoke to us about the religion and traditions of the Baha’i people. Later we visited Haifa’s RAMBAM Hospital, where we learned about some of the groundbreaking medical research and procedures being done there, in areas such as robotic surgery. We also saw their underground facility where in case of an attack that made the main hospital unusable, a parking area could be transformed in two hours into a 1700 bed hospital. It was impressive, but also a sobering reminder that Israel has lived through numerous wars in its 65 years of existence.
From Haifa we made our way to Tzipori, an ancient Jewish town that was spared destruction by the Romans because the people assented to Roman rule. We learned that it was the hometown of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi who codified the Mishnah (the first book of the Talmud) here in the late second century CE. We visited the ruins of Tzipori’s synagogue, with its magnificent fifth-century mosaic whose motifs recalled the activities that took place at the great temple in Jerusalem. We also saw great views from the hilltops of Tzipori.
At around 7 pm we arrived at Kibbutz Merom Golan to lovely hospitality. The kibbutz is in the northern part of the Golan Heights, and was established in 1967, shortly after the end of the six day war. As a privatized kibbutz the kibbutz operates a lovely cottage style hotel (even with Jacuzzi tubs in every room!), along with a lot of agriculture, ranching, and an industrial plant making specialized electrical engines. Our first night we ate in the kibbutz dining hall, where the buffet had a plentiful array of hot and cold dishes, including chicken, beef fish, or vegetarian (gluten free). No one left hungry!
After dinner we gathered in the clubhouse of the kibbutz for one of our most memorable evenings. We sat in a group and each took some time to share a bit of our journey as a LGBTQ Jew. Our stories were varied and powerful, as we each reflected on the journey of our lives that had brought us on this trip. There were people in our group of all ages from their 20s to their 60s, from all parts of the U.S. (and the UK and Israel!), gay, lesbians, and transgender, and from a multitude of Jewish traditions. Many of the group were in Israel for the first time, and for all of us it was the first time to experience Israel in an LGBTQ group. If there was a commonality in our stories, it was a desire to be whole, to be our queer selves and our Jewish selves together, with pride in all of it. And a sense of great joy that we were finding a taste of this wholeness here in Israel, with a new community of friends. We ended the night with some singing and lots of hugs.