Parkites bound for Israel | ParkRecord.com

Parkites bound for Israel

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Temple Har Shalom Rabbi Josh Aaronson plans to lead 43 people to the Holy Land next week.

Many who travel to Israel say they return as changed people. On the upcoming trip, at least five of them, in a Jewish sense, will.

Aaronson expects to perform five bar or bat mitzvahs, the Jewish rite that brings people into adulthood in the faith’s eye.

The settings of the ceremonies will be Jerusalem or the top of Masada, the site of an ancient Jewish fortress where defenders committed mass suicide to keep themselves from being captured by Roman invaders.

Two adults who did not have bar or bat mitzvahs when they were 13, the traditional age for the ceremony, will do so at Masada and three 13-year-olds will have theirs in Jerusalem, the faith’s holiest city.

"It’s pretty clear an Israel trip usually increases one’s Jewish identity," Aaronson says. "People go and see what happened in Israel. They understand more clearly the situation, the religious importance of the area. It brings them closer to Judaism."

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The upcoming trip, June 24-July 8, is the second by Temple Har Shalom led by the rabbi, following one in 2004

The itinerary includes Jerusalem’s holy sites, Tel Aviv and Petra, in Jordan, among stops pilgrims typically make when they visit Israel.

The trip will be loaded with sightseeing and they plan some talks about the politics of the region. They plan to visit a spot known for its Jewish mysticism, stop to honor the place where Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli leader, was assassinated, and explore the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem.

Aaronson wants to take the visitors to the security fence Israel is building but they do not plan to travel to the West Bank. He says speakers are arranged to discuss the Palestinian question and wider issues in the Middle East. Aaronson says the Parkites will hear from people with differing views.

"It’s a real country with real people. It won’t be some name on paper that’s in the news, sometimes for good, sometimes for not good," Aaronson says.