It was so narrow
I would then have to
To a place where
Perhaps as Mount Nebo
You See Far you See Through.
From the moment we landed, we felt right at home. Rabbi Mark Fishman, the “Aharai” hosting group counselor, informed us right away that we could forget the shower and nap- time promised us in the agenda. Instead, we were going to pack Passover food baskets for needy families. They assumed that since we were former soldiers, we wouldn’t care much for a breather (and this wasn’t the last time we would hear that explanation). Some of us are “alumni” of the “Latet” Passover food drive that took place during our “Aharai” trainee days. But this time it was different, we prepared everything from scratch—that’s how it is when kosher food isn’t something that can be taken for granted. Apparently, Montreal also has many underprivileged Jewish families who live below the poverty line. We came to understand that maybe we’re not so different after all.
After arriving and meeting the hosting families, we met the entire Canadian “Aharai” group in the evening. It’s hard to convey in words the emotions we felt: despite the fact that in the summer we got to spend less than a week together, it felt as though we were being united with childhood friends. By the following day, while cooking Shabbat supper, you could swear we’d never said goodbye. After a short break, we ushered in the Sabbath together—a Sabbath in which we held a belated Bar-Mitzvah celebration for one of the MASHAV group members. Needless to say, the 50-year old rule forbidding the throwing of candy in the synagogue didn’t stop us.
At the beginning of the week, during Seder preparations, we got a small taste of the activities the synagogue can offer its congregation such as a Passover activity for young families. If some of us had concerns about holding the Passover Seder far away from home, when it came time for the Seder, we immediately felt right at home. The Silverman family welcomed the entire delegation into their home and bestowed us with an unforgettable experience. The singing of the “HaTikvah” at the end of Haggadah reading left a very profound impression on us. Our Canadian friends asked us what words we recite in the Haggadah passage that reads: “Next Year in Jerusalem”. “Next year in a more built up Jerusalem”, we replied. I guess there’s always room for improvement.
The following day we celebrated another Seder, a practice that surprised us all and that didn’t sound especially thrilling. But it did give us a chance to spend a memorable evening with the hosting families, whom by then we had gotten to know and love. It’s amazing how each hosting family was perfectly matched with the visiting delegation pair. All of us felt a very special bond and connection. As if two Seders weren’t enough, on Thursday we celebrated a third one in an annual event held by the Jewish Federation for JEM employees. JEM is an organization that provides employment, support and other services to members of the Jewish community living and coping with disabilities.
The next day we visited JEM House and learned from this remarkable institution that we still have a long way to go in Israel as far as improving ourselves as a society that supports and aids the less fortunate. Later, we visited the Montreal Holocaust Museum and heard from the Director of the Jewish Federation about the burning issues that occupy the Jewish community nowadays.
Within a very short time, we started feeling our journey winding down to its conclusion. Right before the end, we spent an unforgettable evening at the house of Sarah and Rabbi Mark Fishman to celebrate the second Passover holiday eve; it was a wonderful evening of music and dancing.
On the final eve of the holiday, when we conducted the “Havdalah” ceremony and marked the end of the Passover holiday, our Canadian friends held the Kiddush and celebrated another day of the holiday. We found ourselves in the situation of having to say goodbye, knowing that for the past two weeks we had accumulated unforgettable experiences and made friends for life.
Sometimes you have to fly the farthest away in this world in order to see things clearly. This holiday away from home gave us a rare opportunity to examine ourselves as individuals. Some of us discovered a Jewish side in ourselves that we didn’t know existed before. Some of us experienced the twin emotions of love and separation. A few of us got to miss and appreciate some of the good things we left back home.
We gained an exceptional opportunity to examine ourselves as a group. We learned important lessons of giving from the depths of our hearts. We learned how far one can get with a little bit of faith. And we got a clearer and better vision of the place we want Beer Sheva and Israel to become.
Now is the time to say thank you:
Thank you to the Jewish Agency, to the Partnership of Beer Sheva – Bnei Shimon and Montreal, who made this delegation become a reality.
Thank you to the Dollard Beth Tikvah Congregation, headed by Rabbi Mordechai Zeitz, for the wonderful hospitality.
Thank you to Rabbi Mark Fishman who taught us a deep truth—that when you share your happiness and your wealth…you become even happier and wealthier.
Thank you to Sarah Fishman and the children for this unforgettable visit and for sharing Mark with us.
Thank you to the hosting families for truly becoming a second family for us; thank you to each one of the community members for warmly embracing us.
Most important, thank you to the Canadian “Aharai” group members for being who they are…friends for a lifetime.
“Farwell, good bye, it is not over… it is only the beginning”.