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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"I, Israel: Insights, Experiences, and Lessons Learned from One Student's Year Abroad"

I have been sitting at my desk for the past few hours - attempting to clear out some of the huge pile of work - and thinking about how to respond to what I have been following in the news.  As usual, I find myself glued to a variety of news sources:,,, Ynet News, etc.  No matter who you speak with; no matter who you ask; no matter which news source you seek out for answers.  Every person, no matter where they are from, has an opinion.  Israel - the country, the people, the land - is one of the most debated topics.  Often times, the discussion on Israel can be divisive.  Why?  That is meant to be rhetorical.  I do understand the sides, the arguments.  Everyone is right and everyone is wrong.  I often write blogs about issues that I believe to be important to everyone and which should bring people together.  We all have a responsibility to help others.  I realize that this blog could very well be seen as picking a side.  I will try my best to not do so.  However, as a rabbi, I cannot divorce myself from my connection and support of Israel.  I can, however, see that on each side (however you classify these sides) there are innocent civilians trying to make their lives better.  Let us all NOT forget that.

In early July, I had the great privilege of meeting a very nice and well educated young man, Ariel Doestareh.  As an Atlanta raised Jewish young man, he experienced quite an interesting life.  However, upon graduation from high school, he sought to explore himself, Jewishly, spiritually, etc.  So, he embarked on a year long study program at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem.  The title of this blog - his book - really explains the focus of his book.  It is very well written and in it, Ariel attempts (and succeeds) at bringing our sacred Jewish texts to us through his very real experiences in Israel.  No matter what your connection to Israel is...this is a great book for all Jews.  I highly recommend it.  It is a page turner and one that is very interesting.  Written with a focus on the Parashat HaShavuah (Torah portion of the week), Ariel brilliantly weaves the Biblical stories into his own contemporary experiences.

The truest wisdom in his book - "It's one student's humble quest to find inspiration in the everyday scenes, residents and lessons of one country."  Israel is a country of many cultures, religions, experiences, etc.  It is impossible to completely capture the wonder of Israel in one book - but Ariel comes close!  Kol Ha Kavod!

One more point - It is within each of us to make a difference in the world.  Each of us can recognize and celebrate the beauty and wonder of everyone else we come in contact with.  All we need to do is open our eyes and see it.  Temple Kol Emeth proudly supports and encourages the welcoming of all people.  As a matter of fact, on Thursday, November 15 @ 7 pm, we will be hosting the 9th annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving service.  We will be welcoming clergy from a variety of churches, mosques, and temples to help lead us in prayer.  We will also experience the wonder and beauty of a combined choir.  If you are unable to join us, please check out our live stream:

My dear friends - let us approach quickly the day when we all are able to see the beauty and how much we have in common.  Our commonalities completely outweigh our differences.

Rabbi Erin Boxt

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