Just recently Meg and I returned from being in Israel. I was in Israel to attend the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Meg accompanied me. It was nice to be back in Israel, opportunities to speak Hebrew, to eat Israeli cuisine, to see familiar sights, to visit with Israeli friends, to see the enormous growth taking place throughout the country.
It had been seven years since my last trip to Israel and the amount of growth that has occurred since then is nothing short of spectacular particularly around Tel Aviv and north towards Haifa. Not so long ago the highway from Tel Aviv to Haifa was a stretch of road passing mostly through orchards of oranges and farms of fish ponds. Today the road is lined with new high rise apartment buildings, office buildings, the Netanya professional soccer stadium and ultra high-tech research facilities. So much has changed.
Netanya, until recently a quiet bedroom community just north of Tel Aviv, has exploded in size. Growing anti-Semitism in France has caused a major influx of Jewish émigrés to this coastal city. The city now has come to be known as Israeli’s French Riviera.
As Israel grows it was wonderful to see the greater integration of Israeli Jews and Israeli Muslims. This was particularly apparent in Haifa, a city well known for its outstanding interfaith life. The night before leaving Israel Meg and I drove to Haifa to visit longtime friends. We dined together in a Muslim owned fish restaurant near Haifa’s waterfront. As we conversed both in Hebrew and English our waiter, the owner’s son, shared with us his current studies in an English institute. He spoke almost flawless English. I asked him what he intended to do with this enormous talent. He replied I will find work in Israel then adding that Israel was his home and that he was proud to be a citizen. It gave both Meg and I such delight to see the growing improvement of relationships between Muslims and Jews.
Upon our return we both came to the realization that we need to visit Israel more often. Every visit is a new experience. Every visit affords us an opportunity to learn something new, to grow and to appreciate and value our religious identity.
Rabbi James Scott Glazier