My program has officially started. Thirty rabbis in this program, “Rabbis Engaging with Israel,” is off to a good start. It is a very ecclectic group of colleagues, which will make this program quite worthwhile.

As I was driving from the airport to Jerusalem, a familiar feeling was returning to me…a homecoming. Looking at the landscape, the homes scattered over the hilltops, the farms along the way, the entrance to the kibbutz I live on when I was a college kid (Kibbutz Tzora), and the people waiting at the bus stops as you enter Jerusalem…it was all familiar. Yes, a homecoming.

We are taught that whenever a Jew visits the Land of Israel, it is not a visit, but a returning home. Indeed!

Tonight, we had our first gathering over dinner and met briefly with the organizers, and some special words from Pinchas Avivi, former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey and currently the Deputy Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. (Not so shabby.)

He set the scene for us: If someone was to tell us that there was going to be a revolt in Tunisia, launched through Facebook, then an uprising in Egypt — neither of which was advanced by Islamic fundamentalists (like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood)…you wouldn’t have believed him.

If you were to say that these happened, and then similar protests were going on in places like Lybia, Syria and Bahrain, you would have called for help!

The Middle East is rapidly changing and as a people devoted to justice and democracy, we hope these changes will lead to a safer, more prosperous Middle East. But it will take lots iof energy, investment, and strong leadership from the Arab world to make that a reality.

After leaving Ambassador Avivi, I come to the same question I pose in every blog: “Where are you?” But I am not talking to my Jewish community, per se. I am asking us — how are we going to respond and support American and Israeli interests in the US? How are we going to continue to stand for Israel when so many others are striking out against her? How is the Arab world going to change (will it?!) so that they invest in the prosperity and security of their own people? Arab leaders have an opportunity to stop the spread of Islamic fundamentalism which spews forth from Iran (and is a threat to them, as well!) and invest in their own peoples’ futures. Time will tell.

Tomorrow, we will learn more about the next Flotilla on its way to Israel, counter terrorism agendas, the BDS movement–Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed at Israel by anti-Israel activists, and more.

While these are not the issues we really want to talk about, they are the ones we need to talk about. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to share some thoughts with you about it along the way.

Shalom from Jerusalem.

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