In 70 A.D. Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple on Mt. Moriah. During 2000 years of dispersion, the Jewish people never severed nor forgot their bond with the Land of Israel. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence lost two thousand years of dispersion and was reborn, as the prophets had foretold.
Zion is an age-old name for a Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people who sought to restore their freedom and independence in their ancestral homeland. Theodore Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement in 1897, but the dream of restoration and return had always been at the core of Jewish identity.
Theodore Herzl was a secular Jew who dedicated his life to finding a solution for the Jewish people to escape anti-Semitism by establishing their own country. The Encyclopedia Judaic states, “His thoughts on the subject took complete possession of him. He constantly committed to slips of paper whatever came into his mind, as though he was driven by a superior force.” “Am I working it out?” he asks in his diary. “No, it is working itself out through me. It would be an obsession if it were not so rational from beginning to end. This is what used to be called inspiration.” “If you will, it is no longer a dream, became his motto for the Zionist Movement. Although he died 44 years before Israel became a new nation, he wrote in his will that when it happened that his remains be taken to Eretz Israel. Thus in 1949, shortly after the State of Israel was established, he was reinterred on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.
After Israel’s rebirth in 1948, over 850,000 Jews fled rising persecution or were expelled from Arab and Muslim lands. Israel absorbed not only survivors of the Holocaust but also Jews fleeing Arab countries. Jews from northern Europe are called Ashkanazi Jews, while Jews from Spanish heritage and from North Africa and Arab countries are called Sephardic Jews. Israel has been challenged with the task of the absorption of Jewish refugees from the four corners of the earth, who have each brought with them their own unique culture and heritage. Within this melting pot, Jewish identity, along with the common challenge regarding security, have helped unify the country. With the necessity for a common language, and primarily the work of one man - Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the rebirth of the ancient Hebrew language was resurrected. Israel’s narrative is complex to say the least, and the country continues to go through a process of collective identity, especially with the recent absorption of Jews from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union. However, it is both the unity and diversity that makes this country brilliantly alive and different that any other country in the world. It is a land with 4000 years of history, and still only 63 years old, as of May, 2014. Israel is an ancient mystic that has brought us the Bible as well as the moral and ethical code for modern society. Israel is current, and on the cutting edge in communication, agriculture, medicine, fashion, business innovation and technology. Israel is like no place else on earth!
The love for the land of Israel, Eretz Israel, is reflected in the many Israeli folk songs that come from the days of pioneering. These beloved songs record the tales of turning the rocky barren land into a land of “milk and honey, busting with agriculture, water in the desert, campfires and lovers walking through the orchards at dusk…. These songs that are still song today, have no doubt instilled an eternal appreciation of the land and nature within Israeli culture. In springtime you see families and nature groups hiking wadis (canyons) in search of wildflowers and waterfalls and in the summer youth groups exploring and camping the outdoor spaces.
Although you will find every ethnic variety of food within Israel, Israeli fusion cuisine is mainly a combination and adaptation of foods from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Israel is known for their healthy and indulgent breakfasts that include Israeli salads, olives, hummus, cheese, omelets, smoked fish, yogurts, fruit, dates, cereals, breads and halvah.
Israel’s music scene is varied and eclectic, stretching from the Israel Opera and Philharmonic to folk, rock, pop and fuses of jazz, hip-hop, Arabic and Middle Eastern World Music.
Shabbat is a respite in the week to cease striving and “Be.” It is one of the Ten Commandments, with a significance reiterated throughout the Bible. It is a blessing to anyone who masters its art. It begins Friday evening, however this peaceful bliss begins earlier in the day. Many people do not work on Friday or work a half -day. The city streets are bustling in the morning with people doing their last minute shopping before the stores close in the afternoon. Bakeries are crammed with lines for cakes and challah, the braided bread for Shabbat. Flower vendors line the streets to bank in on their busiest day of the week. In the afternoon the traffic relaxes and an optimistic calm is ever present. Everywhere you hear the salutation, “Shabbat Shalom.” People connect with friends at sidewalk cafes and buy the weekend paper before going home to prepare for dinner. Shabbat begins with the wife and daughters lighting Shabbat candles and saying special prayers for the family. For religious families, the men go to synagogue before dinner. The father says “Kiddush,” a prayer over the bread and wine as well as blessings over his children. He sings “A Woman of Valor,” from Proverbs, for his wife. Songs are sung to welcome the Sabbath, and the meal begins. Shabbat ends Saturday evening and people usually go out to celebrate the new week, with a new salutation, “Shavua Tov. “
Jewish Feasts & Holidays
|Rosh Hashanah||Feast of Trumpets/ Jewish New Year||Biblical|
|Yom Kippur||Day of Atonement||Biblical|
|Sukkot||Feast of Tabernacles||Biblical|
|Simchat Torah||Completion of reading the Torah||Rabbinic|
|Hanukah||Maccabee Victory/Rededication of Temple||Rabbinic|
|Tu B’Shvat||Birthday of the Trees||Rabbinic|
|Purim||Story of the Esther||Rabbinic|
|Passover||Story of the Exodus||Biblical|
|Shavuot||Giving of The Torah/Pentecost||Biblical|
Israel’s government has features similar to those of the governments of Britain and the U.S. Like Britain, it does not yet have a Constitution. Instead, its Basic Laws serve as its constitution. The government is a parliamentary democracy with separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The Legislative Branch is the Knesset, a one-house Parliament, made up of 120 members from a variety of political parties who serve four-year terms, unless there is a call for earlier elections. The leader of the party with the most Knesset members is given the opportunity to become Prime Minister and recommends his cabinet of ministers who must be approved by the Knesset. The cabinet is usually composed of a coalition of political parties. The Knesset can bring down the government with a no-confidence vote that requires new, early elections. The judiciary is independent and serves as a watchdog for civil and human rights. Unlike most democracies, Israel’s Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to review military actions. The President is elected by the Knesset, serves for seven years and cannot serve a second term. He appoints diplomats, justices and judges based on Knesset recommendations.