Yom rishon, 3 Av 5772.
This adventure was so full of things to learn and people worth knowing, it will take more than one post. Stick with me. This tiny country is so full of wonderful and important stories!
A week ago, the Dearly Beloved and I went on a tour of the Shomron (Samaria, aka the northern part of the "West Bank") with Eve Harow, under the auspices of the OU Center in Jerusalem. Eve is a knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide who uses the Tanach as a guidebook. It is deeply satisfying to travel the Holy Land of Israel while being shown the locations where great Biblical events actually took place.
Michael's story is nothing short of amazing. He told us that he was a secular Jew from the former Soviet Union, with no knowledge of the Torah or the Holy Temple, and with no belief in G-d.
He was invited to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat when he was a young oleh, and saw his host's children playing a card game. As he looked closer, he saw that the cards had unusual symbols on them, not the usual hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs. One picture in particular fascinated him, so he asked about it. The children didn't understand how a grown man could not know about the Holy Temple, but they patiently explained to him.
A few weeks later, he had a powerful dream about the Temple. He became obsessed with it. A master stonemason, he felt that he would not rest until he had built it, and with materials as authentic as possible.
He wanted it to be right, but he had no idea where to find answers, not yet knowing enough to go to the Mishnah for details. He stumbled upon the works of Josephus Flavius, the commentator of the period of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. Michael read and re-read with fascination the detailed description in Josephus' writings about the Temple. With guidance from his research and the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, he painstakingly constructed a model that was so accurate that Aish HaTorah commissioned a 1,200 kilogram version that was placed on top of a roof of one of their buildings overlooking the Kotel.
The sweetest part of the story is that Michael's obsession with his dream, and with learning about and building his model of the Second Temple, caused him the begin observing Judaism. He went on to build a beautiful replica of the Mishkan as well.
|Even the curtain for the front of the model of the Mishkan was woven in careful detail.|
After this inspiring visit, we moved to the Kedem Museum, which was founded and is run by Zvi (Zvika) Slonim, winner of this year's Moskowitz Prize for Zionism. Unfortunately, the museum is going through renovations; so we were unable to learn anything about it. (A good reason for a return visit.)
To quote the Moskowitz site, "The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism was established in recognition of the people who put Zionism into action in today’s Israeli society – at times risking their own personal security, placing the collective before personal needs, and doing what it takes to ensure a strong, secure Jewish homeland."
A seventh-generation Israeli, Zvi Slonim is a direct descendant of the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch, and the grandson of the chief rabbi of Hevron at the time of the 1929 pogrom. He is also a criminologist, and an expert on juvenile delinquency and special education. What motivated him to leave a fulfilling career and work so tirelessly to fill the Land with Jews? He quotes Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just): "What is man's obligation in this world?"
One night, he heard Egyptian president Anwar Sadat say that he would be willing to sacrifice a million soldiers for a tiny speck of the land of Israel. Hearing this impressed upon Zvi how important must be the Land to the Jews. He felt that our Torah teaches us that we must love the Land, and that we must fill it up and live in it. He hoped that he could bring a hundred Jews with him. He became one of the founders of the Gush Emunim movement, and one of the first settlers in the Shomron. It was important to him that his organization purchase every speck of land legally, without violence, without a hint of stealing the land, so that no one could question the legality of the Jewish ownership of the settlements. He proceeded to help to establish 148 settlements with a half a million people.
To be continued. Next stops: Barkan for handmade chocolate, and Ariel, home to Israel's eighth university.
Photos taken by Ruti and Avi Eastman