Moshav Mevo Modi’im — Looks can be deceiving, and that is definitely the case at this semi-rural community known as Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s moshav.
When, over Sukkot, my husband and I brought our second graders to the moshav, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, my first thought was “this looks kind of dumpy.”
Given the moshav’s popularity with music lovers and those seeking Shabbat hospitality, I was expecting the huge green lawns and tidy houses of a well-heeled kibbutz.
A tourist’s first visit to Israel typically has a predictable itinerary: the Western Wall, Masada, Tel Aviv. Return visitors are often keen to experience different sites, ones they missed the first time. But in the last five years, a wide range of attractions all over Israel have undergone such extensive renovation or expansion that they are worth a repeat visit.
KIbbutz Lotan, Israel — Just north of Eilat’s mega-resort sprawl lies one of Israel’s most physically stunning regions. With a landscape of stark red and brown mountain cliffs, the Arava rift valley straddles the length of the border with Jordan all the way up to the Dead Sea.
It was a small kipa, satin white and sky blue, and it was supposed to make a statement about my Jewish identity. I bought it at a Judaica shop in Jerusalem on my first visit to Israel, a 10-day trip for American journalists in late autumn of 1975. Not religiously observant then, I was 25 and not a kipa-wearer outside of synagogue. I decided to wear the yarmulke as a sign of pride, as a statement of Jewish identity, during the time I was in Israel. I clipped it to my head then forgot about it.
In Israel, no one notices someone wearing a kipa. On Shabbat, someone noticed.
The most beautiful sunset I have seen in my life was above the rolling hills of Majdanek, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Orange grabbed peach, peach wrapped its legs around crimson, until all was gold, gold hovering over our weeping circle of Jews, gathered there to witness the worst of humanity. I was 18, out of America for the first time and thoroughly captivated by Poland, by its dark history but also by its Jewish renaissance, embodied that day in the radiant sunset.
Waking up as the tour bus crawled to a stop on the shoulder of an otherwise empty Israeli highway, I opened my eyes to see eight strangers piling their luggage into the bottom of our bus and climbing up the steps. Clad in identical olive-shade uniforms differentiated only by their multi-colored berets, they walked down the aisles among the 40 wide-eyed Americans, taking the empty seats we had left for them.
Born Uriah Rapoport in Minsk, my grandfather changed his last name to Harris when he immigrated to the United States in the late 1870s at the age of 9. I was told he stayed with the Harris family only for one night, but kept their name for the rest of his life.
I have nothing against the name Harris, but “Rapoport” connects me to a past before my grandfather. I looked up the name. There were many distinguished Ashkenazi rabbis named “Rapoport” in Eastern Europe, even in Minsk. My great-grandfather was not one of them: he was in the lumber business.
The hairpin turns along the Blue Ridge Parkway reveal astonishing vistas, with deepening shades of blue and green, mountains and their shadows, around each bend. So too, a last-minute vacation to visit friends in Greensboro, N.C., attend a bluegrass festival, and travel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned into a detour into Southern Jewish history. We bumped into family stories in unexpected places, and later picked up subsequent chapters.