(עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותומכיה מאושר” (משלי, ג’, י”ח”
“She is a tree of life for those who hold fast to her and all of her supporters are happy” (Proverbs 3:18)
Recently, congregation Ohel Avraham in Haifa had the wonderful opportunity to be reunited with members of our sister congregation, Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA, as part of the Anafim (branches) program.
During our first tour in Israel, the group learned about the “illegal migrants” who risked their lives, yearning for safe haven, as they arrived on the shores of Atlit. Afterwards, we spoke about what it means to be Heifai (a person from Haifa). As a new immigrant myself, and as an adopted Heifai, I have been privileged to cultivate the fruit of those who planted roots here and made the desert bloom more than 70 years ago. I’m sure the Bostonians appreciated our fresh fruits, vegetables, and sweets, as well.
While the group traveled the country, from the stunning mountaintops of the Golan, through the mystical town of Tzfat, and all the way to the heart of our nation, people and religion, Jerusalem, I stayed in Haifa and continued my studies at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. You see, no two branches of our tree are alike, they take on different shapes and sizes; they span in different directions far and wide; and, the leaves that grow from the branches collect sunlight from all angles to nourish the tree, and in turn, us. As Reform Jews, we strive to ensure every branch, near and far, is connected to and nourishes the common roots of our Etz Hayyim (tree of life).
As I got to know members of the group, starting at the resilience workshop, then walking the streets of Acre, until our final evening together, we shared stories of personal experiences of holding fast to the tree of life. We, the anafim of our shared Etz Hayyim, had been united once again, and in supporting one another, we were happy.
L’hitratot – until we meet again, Shalom.
Written by Brian Rizowy