Hebron Forever

Rabbi Ira Budow

By Rabbi Ira Budow

One of the most disappointing outcomes that occurred during the pandemic was the tradition of our school going to Israel. We went to Israel for more than two decades and, due to COVID in 2020 and 2021, Israel was not letting anybody in, and our school was not ready to go.

There was a tremendous void at Abrams for two years by not going on the trip of a lifetime and visiting the Holy Land. This year, I was not overly optimistic about going to Israel because of the vaccination requirement for people traveling to Israel. Finally, this past March, we got the news that Israel would allow unvaccinated visitors if they followed testing protocols when leaving the United States and entering Israel.

Abrams jumped on it! The eighth grade was small this year, and we invited parents and friends of the school to go on our trip. We had a group of 35 people going to Israel. It was not an easy task and the probability of somebody getting COVID was high because Israel also had an increase in COVID cases. If somebody would have tested positive in Israel, they would be delayed at least five days and we would have to leave a teacher there with them.

It was a daunting challenge for us. We left the United States on May 9 and landed in Israel on May 10 and started our trip through the entire country. We began in Tel Aviv at the Renaissance Hotel and went to the north to the holy cities of Tiberius and Tzfat. We saw the boundaries of Lebanon and Syria in front of us. We then came to Jerusalem which is the heart and soul of our religion and many other religions.

The next stop on our itinerary was very going to be very challenging. We were looking forward to going to the city of Hebron, which is a holy city to the Jewish people. It is written in the book of Chayei Sarah about Abraham acquiring the cave of Machpelah to be a burial place for the patriarchs and matriarchs. Over the years, Hebron has become a town that many Jewish people have avoided because they said it’s too unsafe. There is a large Arab population and a small Jewish population, and people declared it dangerous.

But I say, for Jews not to go to Hebron, is dangerous. We pray three times a day and it says in the Amida that G-d remembers the kindness of the forefathers and the matriarchs. People have forgotten our forefathers and matriarchs because we do not visit the second-holiest area for Jews. Our commitment this year was to do something unique; to dedicate a Torah to the city of Hebron. I had the luck of meeting Rabbi Danny Cohen, who is the rabbi of Hebron, the rabbi of the soldiers.

Two years ago, we were planning to have graduation at the Machpelah, at the tombs. When it came to planning for this trip, Rabbi Cohen and I again went back to the drawing board. We were able to plan out a wonderful day because the graduation fell on Lag B’Omer, a significant holiday when students of the great Rabbi Akiva stopped perishing from a plague. Danny and I spoke long-distance, and he had his ideas. I have to say I was astounded by what we were able to produce.

We went to an army base in Hebron where the students, parents and all of us had a barbecue with the soldiers. It was amazing to see these young Israeli soldiers, our students, and everybody dancing together. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the city of Hebron. We had a parade with around 400 people from the city, and the Torah was escorted by a special vehicle.

As I walked the streets, the same streets that our patriarch Abraham walked in Hebron, I felt very lucky. I looked around as we were parading and rejoicing, the students were happily celebrating Lag B’Omer. There is a tradition of having bonfires and as we were leaving the city there was an extraordinary bonfire to commemorate that day.

We remembered and honored the kindness of our forefathers, our matriarchs, and patriarchs by visiting Hebron. Perhaps because of them watching over us, not one child, not one parent had COVID. It was a magical trip connecting to Israel, modern Israel and reconnecting our students with their religious roots. Thank G-d we were able to celebrate in Israel with Rabbi Danny Cohen and many other wonderful people.

Rabbi Ira Budow is the director of Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley.


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