October 14, 2019

Israel Bonds Appeal 2019

Filed under: Michael — michael @ 1:41 am

I have been asked to share my Israel Bonds Appeal from services at Agudath Achim Congregation on Yom Kippur.  So here it is:

I am honored to give the Israel Bonds appeal this year.  Joel thought I might have something inspirational to say having visited Israel this year.  I hope to be able to add some value to what should be an easy sell, supporting Israel by buying Israel Bonds.

You may, or may not, remember that last year, Phil Devorris, gave the Israel Bond appeal. 

I asked him what he had said for some inspiration.  He said that he had also forgotten, but we agreed that it was positive.  So he found the speech and emailed it to me.

Phil’s appeal was pre-Israel of our family trip last December.  He spoke about the Devorris family love of travel, the love of adventure, meeting new people and cultures in unique places around the world.  It had very engineering focus as he spoke about visiting the leaning tower of Pisa, a sinking Venice and the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos, all unique and vulnerable places.  He then transitioned to the fragility of life in the Middle East and the need to support the State of Israel.

I thought about his speech, and I then thought about our service today, and how the liturgy today would be the same as last year, and if I couldn’t remember the appeal, and Phil couldn’t remember, then I’m sure the congregation would not remember, and since the appeal was so good, why not just save myself some time and brain power, and read Phil’s speech.

It’s not like I haven’t read someone’s speech before, right Bill.  I could also ask Phil to come up here and read it, as we are often mistaken for each other.  You may not think we are so handsomely alike, yet two weeks ago at a pumpkin festival, I overheard Phil giving out dental advice.

As Bill would rightly point out, that even though I had to read his Penn State Outstanding Alumni speech for him because he had fainted and was in the hospital emergency room, I did some significant editing. So back to my thoughts and Israel.

Prior to our family trip, and my first visit, my expectations were huge.  Stories from friends and families had set the bar very high.  And I was ready to be overwhelmed. 

Israel did not disappoint, the trip was amazing, Israel is amazing. Each day was full of adventure and discovery – people, places celebrating Judaism and learning so much with my family.  Israel oozes with history and meaning, and our bus had wifi.  If you want the trip details, I know someone who maintains the Federation’s website and there is a link to the trip on the homepage.  (Yes, Josh, there is a Federation website.)

To see what our Jewish family has created in such adverse conditions was incredible.  I was inspired and felt very proud to witness the creation of this Promised land.

If you have not yet gone, you need to do everything possible to go.  I am already thinking about what I am going to do when I return. 

If you do go, beware of the schwarma, the unofficial sandwich of Israel.  I know we are starting a fast, (I thought I was giving this speech last night) and I should not be talking about food, but stay with me.  At a kibbutz in the Galilee, Allison had the traditional schwarma with the Jerusalem mix.  She couldn’t eat fast enough, it was obviously delicious.  Our guide, Mickey, complimented Allison on her adventurous palate.  Allison’s brow wrinkled with confusion, as Mickey explained the Jerusalem mix consists of chicken liver, chicken spleen and chicken heart.  Apparently, Allison’s stomach then began to wrinkle and that was the end of her night in public.  We just received a Happy New Year’s note from Mickey, and he is still apologetic for not providing proper warning about the mix.

But right now I want everybody to think about Israel.  Israel needs our help.  It’s not all milk and honey.  This is not breaking news: It’s complicated over there and that should not be a surprise to anyone.  Israel and Israelis live in a very dangerous neighborhood.  I cannot pretend to know how I would deal with the daily threat of terror.  Imagine having to carry your tallis bag and your gas mask to synagogue, or practicing bombs raid drills, or hearing the bomb siren that has gone off over 8,000 times since 2005 knowing you have 20 seconds to get into a safe shelter, or dealing with the stress of random terror at a market or on a bus.  But having recently visited, granted with a curated view of daily life by people who were paid to make our visit special, Israel, on the surface seems vibrant, confident, and no different than any other cosmopolitan and enlightened country.  On the other hand, soon after our visit, in May,  an American-Israeli man was killed by a Gazan rocket in Ashdod, 18 miles south of Tel Aviv.  He was one of four Israeli citizens killed in those rocket attacks.

Israel needs our support.  We can be critical of Israeli decisions with which we disagree, but Israelis are living with a daily threat that I cannot relate to.  In the Talmud, Hillel says, “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.”

We can disagree with their leaders, and their policies, their treatment non-Jewish Israelis, and their Arab neighbors, but we do not know what it is like to live with their daily terror stress.  We live in imperfect times.  We need to look no further than the need to have two armed guards in front of our sealed front doors and our own current state of political affairs to see divisiveness, polarization and evil.

Current events are a call to action, and in these challenging times, support of Israel should be something we all have in common.  And I believe we can support Israel even if we disagree with some of it’s policies or political leaders. The purchase of an Israel Bond is a financial benefit to Israel and a market return for the purchaser.  It is also a message to our Jewish brothers and sisters, we are with you.  As the haters continue to try to isolate the Israel in the court of public opinion, Jews in the diaspora need to send Israel a message, We’ve Got Your Back.  That is how we need to translate l’dor v’dor.

Israel’s love for Jews is unconditional, every Jew has the right to settle in Israel and become a citizen (1950).   I am proud of our community’s past support for Israel.  Forty six years ago today, in 1973, the Arab world launched a surprise attack to destroy Israel, on our most holy day.  Our community raised over $100,000 on the spot to help meet this emergency.  That is over $500,000 in today’s money.  The Israel Emergency Fund was not bonds.  As the former NFL wide receiver, Randy Moss, was fond of saying, it was, Straight Cash Homey.

I am also proud that our Greater Altoona Jewish Federation recently purchased $50,000 dollars of Israel Bonds.  I shudder to think what the future of the Jewish people would be without a Jewish homeland.

Please take your pledge card, and if you are able, please invest in the future of Israel and the Jewish people because our futures are intertwined.  If you do not have a card, please ask an usher for a card.  And remember a bond is not a gift, it is an investment that will not only create financial wealth but spiritual wealth.

I wish everybody an easy fast, and if temptation strikes, think chicken livers, hearts and spleens.

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