Rabbi Asher Lopatin writes about his quick trip to Israel to show solidarity and to show that we in Detroit care about our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and for all those in Israel.
Just days after the rockets stopped flying over our brother and sisters in Israel, I received a call from the Israeli Consulate to the Midwest asking if I could possibly head to the Holy Land to show solidarity. The Israeli foreign minister had called the Consulate asking for as many leaders of Federations and JCRCs to show that the Jewish community in America has Israel’s back.
After I got the thumbs up, I booked my flight. Little did I know that there were PCR COVID tests to take, forms to fill out, and an antibody serology test in Israel that would need to be positive to avoid a two-week quarantine.
In fact, I first booked the trip for just one day, but my wife, Rachel, persuaded me to extend it, and I rebooked for three days: Arriving Monday morning — in order to test and quarantine till the results came back — and then having two days to explore my second reason for going besides solidarity: to determine for myself that Israeli shared society — between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Israel — was alive and well and meeting the challenges of riots in mixed cities all over Israel.
Hamas had said: “Shared society and coexistence in Israel has been destroyed.” I went to prove them wrong.
We are blessed in Detroit to have the perfect Partnership Region for exploring coexistence — the Central Galilee: the largest Arab city in Israel, Nazareth, nestled in the Galilean hills right next to Nof HaGalil, Migdal HaEmek and a host of other small Jewish and Arab towns, villages and kibbutzim in the Jezreel valley.
We are also blessed to have the most amazing leadership in the Israel and Oversees office of the Jewish Federation: Jennifer Levine leading the department from Detroit, and our folks on the ground, Yoav Raban, Naomi Miller Rockowitz and Noa Noff. Together, this incredible team set up a miracle trip for me for my two days in search of shared society.
I am also deeply grateful to Consul Daniel Aschheim of the Israeli Consulate to the Midwest, who helped set up a great meeting with the mayor of Umm al-Fahm, the third largest Arab city in Israel.
I came to Israel to show solidarity; to show that we in Detroit care about our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and for all those in Israel — Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Druze — who are building an incredible state together.
What I found in Israel was inspiration: People who were not giving up on shared society in Lod, despite the violence and the breakdown; mayors, teachers, heads of schools, community activists, high-tech folks and entrepreneurs, all committed to Jews and Arabs making the modern Jewish state work.
I came back energized and inspired that we, too, in Detroit, can work together with diverse communities and build a shared society right here in the Motor City. Israel is a land of miracles; the Galilee is a region of wonders — from the days of Elijah to today.
May the great accomplishments of shared society and mutual respect that I found amongst the students of the Al-Qastal Arab elementary school in Nazareth, to the high school students — Arab, Jewish and Christian — in the International School of Givat Haviva permeate our divided world and teach us how people can work together despite different narratives and different histories.
Israel with all its challenges, external and internal, will always be the land that pushes us to be better, to dream bigger and to be proud of who we are as Jews — Jews who are a light onto the entire world.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is executive director of the JCRC/AJC.
15 Cities; 3 Days
I went to 15 cities in three days: My quarantine day in Jerusalem; Netanya and Ramat Poleg; then Tel Aviv (meeting the mayor of Umm al-Fahm); Lod: where I saw a torn, scruffy city that has not given up the goal of the 70% Jews and 30% Arabs building a flourishing city together — with the help over the years of Detroit philanthropists; Kfar Kassim — a charming Arab town that tried to help me find my destination, Givat Haviva International School; Tel Aviv — the Namal, the Old Port — one of the coolest places on earth; night in Hadera and then to Nazareth, to meet the mayors of Nazareth and Migdal HaEmek; then on to Migdal HaEmek “Shehechiyanu” restaurant to meet local community activists — Jews and Arabs — working in Nof HaGalil, and small Bedouin and Jewish towns to build a shared society for all. Then to the small Arab town of Manshiya Zabda to meet with local leaders — Jewish and Arab — from all over the Jezreel Valley, in the Al-Ro’aa special needs Arab school. Of course, how could I go to Israel without visiting relatives in Modiin, and then on to the Ben Gurion Airport.