With over 20 years of experience as a licensed tour guide in Israel, I still am challenged by many tourists with the following question. What are your favorite sites? Obviously, they say, not including the Western Wall or Masada. I always hesitate a bit before giving an answer. After all, it’s hard to pin me down to one favorite site. Israel is known to be a small, young country. Yet we have many historical, religious and exciting sites to see as well as a plethora of nature reserves and beautiful beaches all over the country! I am always surprised as to the reactions during and at the end of the tour. Most visitors really are not aware of all the beautiful sites that Israel has to offer.
Recently I visited a site which I feel could be included as one of my favorite sites. The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfuzot in Tel Aviv.I would definitely include this on my “Bucket List” of favorite sites to see in Israel.
Everyone who visits Israel for the first time, Jewish or not, has this unspoken question going thru their minds. How did we do it? How did this small country established in 1948 grow to be a world leader in 2018? Is there something special here, perhaps in the water? Perhaps in the food? Or perhaps in the people? There is a story told about the Jewish people as they trudged thru the desert. As the Jews arrived in the Promised Land, they looked around and said…Really? this is it? What kind of a place did we come to? And the Lord answered…we’ll at least you will have great neighbors! You will never lead a dull life!
Thus began the ultimate challenge. How do a people who spent 40 years traveling in the desert, now conquer a “promised land” and survive as a people? Or in today’s world, how does the Jewish Nation return to its historical homeland, amidst “neighbors” who may not want us to be there? Yet not only have we survived, but we have created a most amazing country and made the desert bloom???
Part of the answer to this question can be found at the Museum of the Jewish People. The answer may lie in the Synagogue.
In the museum, you will find exhilarating U-Tube videos and exhibits of Synagogues from all over the world, including Israel. The Synagogue has played and continues to play a most important role in the life of the Jewish People. Here in Israel, most Synagogues are seen as a place to pray and study as well as a place for family celebrations. In other parts of the world, people view the Synagogue as the center of their spiritual or religious life. Their “Jewish life” is based in and around the Synagogue.
Whatever the use, one thing is for sure. The Synagogue is a place where all Jews come together.
We are a tribal people. A people of commitment and brotherhood. A people who truly care about each other. We stick together, against all odds, even with all our differences. Synagogues throughout Israel and the world may look different, even observe different rituals and customs. These differences are actually what holds us together. The challenge of coming together for prayer, ritual, tradition or song is part of the glue that holds us together.
So when Jews move to a new area, the first thing they do is look for a Synagogue.If there is none, they will soon build one. It’s where you go to find other Jews.It’s where you go to find other members of the tribe, who will work together to build a community. The State of Israel is made up of many Synagogues, where each group of Jews who moved here joined together, committed to each other and built this great country!
When you next visit Israel, be sure to include a visit to the Museum of the Jewish People in your itinerary. Put this museum on your must see or bucket list. You will most certainly come out with a greater understanding of the Jewish People and how we banded together to make this country the great country it is today!
Please note: Currently the Museum of the Jewish People is undergoing major renovations, to bring the museum into the 21st Century. The Synagogue exhibit is still open and there are extended hours. There are two other exhibits currently open; Heroes-trailblazers of the Jewish People and Capturing History: the photography of David Chim. There will also be some new exhibits opening in March. Be sure to check the museum website for more info: https://www.bh.org.il/visit-us/museum-jewish-people-tel-aviv/