Sunday, May 5, 2019

“My Heart Is In The East:”

Dear Friends,

I am writing you this message while on a ship traveling on the Iberian Peninsula. I am participating as a faculty member on a unique Jewish Music Cruise sponsored by the World Union For Progressive Judaism.  During the course of our journey we will be visiting Jewish Communities from Portugal to Spain. I will be performing music and teaching while aboard ship.  

While Sue and I are enjoying the many amazing experiences on our journey, news from around the world makes it difficult to focus on our surroundings.  Over the past two days over 600 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Southern Israel. The IDF has responded by seeking to root out and eliminate the Hamas terrorists who are responsible. As I write these words, we have learned that four Israelis have been killed in unprovoked attacks.  Twenty two Palestinians have died and there have been many injured on both sides. These numbers will surely increase. Already the propaganda wheels have been churning. News reports have been focusing on the damage inflicted on the Palestinians. Israeli casualties are but a footnote. Little has been said about the fact that this was an unprovoked attack upon civilians that demanded a forceful response.

This Thursday, I will be teaching a class onboard the ship about the Hebrew Poetry of two medieval writers - Yehuda Halevi and Solomon Ibn Gabirol. One of Halevi’s most famous works begins with the words:  “My Heart is in the East, and I am in the uttermost ends of the West.” This poem, written in 12th Century Spain, encapsulates both the longing for and the love that our people have expressed towards the Land of Israel. No matter where we live - in Denver, in Spain, in Ramat HaNegev (our partnership community in Israel that is directly in the line of fire), or any other corner of the world - Jews have always turned our hearts towards our homeland. The words of this poem echo in my consciousness as I travel in the footsteps of the poet and listen to the news of this latest outrage.

Regardless of our feelings about the current political climate, we must commit ourselves to supporting and caring for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Now is a time for public and vocal support of the legitimate actions of the IDF as they act to protect their citizens. The words of Halevi are as profound today as they were 900 years ago. Let us pray for peace. Let us strive to provide a sense of balance as we turn our hearts towards Jerusalem.

I look forward to seeing you all upon my return,


Rabbi Joseph R. Black