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Searching for our roots.

Leon's No Newsletter 176

Jerusalem Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dear Friends, Shalom,

Ittamar and Anat’s forthcoming marriage has given my brothers, Raymond and Bernard, a good reason to visit Israel.

Ittamar and Anat’s wedding is a “simcha”; another Jewish family is being established here and another Gork family will take its place proudly besides the other families of Jewish society.

When people ask me if being a Zionist brought me to live in Israel I tell them no, it’s because I enjoy studying the Bible and came here to learn about the history of the people and places mentioned in the Bible.

It just so happens that every town, village, kibbutz or whatever is named after a biblical place or stands on the site of a biblical place or next to one. There simply is no place in Israel that isn’t associated with the Bible in some way.

There also isn’t any Jewish family that isn’t associated with one of those places. There was a time, a long time ago when every place in Israel was inhabited by Jews.

At one time, hundreds of years ago there wasn’t a single place in Israel that didn’t have a Jewish inhabitant.

Every Jew who wants to come to Israel is searching, whether he’s aware of it or not, for the place where his ancestors once lived. Few people would admit that they have this motive in mind; it sounds too absurd. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack after both have been moved from the place where they once stood.

It doesn’t seem possible to find evidence that our ancestors once lived here after they’ve been away for such a long time.

Yet the place is fixed deeply in the heart of every Jew because the time they lived here before they left was very long; 500 years from David to Zerubabel, 400 years from Nehemia to Rabbi Yohanen ben Zakai and 700 years from Rabbi Judah the Prince to sometime in the 11th century when history forgot to tell us who was the last Jew in Palestine.

It takes a long time of living in one place and of experiencing deep emotional experiences for a place to be so firmly fixed in a person’s heart as Israel is fixed in the heart of the Jewish People. A lot of history went on here, that’s for sure.

There were good times and bad but they were all felt very deeply, so deeply in fact that poets wrote about them and the people sang of these things over and over again for many generations.

People may have forgotten history but they never forgot their customs and way they did things. These are recorded in the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud and thousands of other books which relate the customs of the Jews which they developed in the course of 1600 years of life in Israel. You can call it Judah, Judea or Palestine; the name isn’t important it’s the same place. Its important what the Jews did here in that time and how they lived here.

Ittamar and Anat will get married according to the Jewish customs which were practiced here during those 1600 years.

Wherever Jews live they celebrate marriages in the way they were celebrated here during those years.

Wherever Jews live, in fact, they live the way the Jews lived here during that long period of time. In fact even non Jews practice those customs; marriage, christening, burials, care for the needy, the old, the infirm, the widow, the orphan, rest from labor, the ten commandments, mercy and all the laws of equality of humans, freedom from slavery and civil rights.

My brothers coming from Toronto and Sydney live there as Jews lived in Israel 2000 years ago not as Eskimos or Aborigines lived there 2000 years ago but as Jews lived in Israel 2000 years ago.

The dream of the Jewish prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, more than 2000 years ago indeed related to the land of Israel but not to its physical existence, but rather to its spiritual existence.

Their dream was not that all people should be Jews or that all Jews should come to live in Israel. On the contrary, their dream was that if Jews should happen to live in other countries outside Israel they should live in the way the Jews lived in Israel 2000 years ago.

This great dream has been fulfilled. It was of secondary importance to them that the Jews should live in Israel. It was of primary importance that the way in which the Jews lived in Israel should be the way they live in the entire world.

Living in the world around us, amongst people who usually didn’t accept our way of life was important to them.

On the one hand the prophets’ vision was that the Jewish People live among the nations of the world and on the other hand that they live as Jews and not as the non Jews amongst whom they lived.

This was no easy achievement because the nations of the world wanted to teach us their ways, to force us to be like them.

They were determined to isolate the Jews and the Jews were just as determined not to be isolated. Being different yet being together with others is no easy matter. But persecution was part of bargain that God made with the Jews.

There’s something not quite right with a Jew, living outside Israel, who isn’t being persecuted or at least feeling persecuted. Either he’s not living the true Jewish way of life or the non Jews have learnt the Jewish custom of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. In that case the Messiah has arrived.

Wishing you a great no news day

Yours truly

Leon Gork

Come for a tour with Leon

Tel: 0523801867

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