A Wonderful Place
eshivat Akiva's 10th-grade
Lehava (The Flame) trip to
Israel was not just any other
trip. Israel is not just any
other foreign country. Israel is our
home. Jews do not have any other
place. God promised us this land.
In Israel, you could see the era of the
Messiah without a telescope. We were
not tourists. All Jews, in every corner of
this planet, are Israeli citizens. When
we support Israel, we support ourselves.
Brothers watch over each other.
Our trip was an adventure through
time. Every second of our trip was ful-
filling. Our class became family.
When we got off the plane at Ben-
Gurion Airport, the unmistakable wave
of kindness and brotherhood of Israel
hit us immediately: I felt home. The
first free moment I had, waiting for our
luggage at the airport, I called my
mother and remember saying to her, "I
It was unbelievable; I felt satisfied.
Chaim Linden, 16, is the oldest son of
Edith and Paul Linden of Oak Park.
His brothers are Noam and Yochanan.
The family made aliyah in mid-July.
Nowhere else, not even the fanciest
vacation resort, could make me happier.
After we collected our luggage, it was
time to meet our traveling home —
our bus. As soon as we went aboard,
Talya Schostak, our counselor, handed
out chocolates and water bottles. It was
more than 100 degrees outside.
We made it on time to Shacharit
(morning prayer service) at the Kotel
(Western Wall), a reminder of the great-
ness of the ancient Temple and a pillar
of hope for the next Temple. We felt
worn out from jet lag and non-stop trav-
eling, but once we reached Jerusalem, no
tired feeling could have forced us to
sleep. There was so much to do.
In our four days in Jerusalem, the
center of the universe, the gateway to
heaven, we went to every museum,
street corner and restaurant you could
find. We went down the Western Wall
tunnels, walked through King
Chizkiyahu's underground aqueduct
and explored Ben Yehuda Street. It was
impossible to be bored; everything
about Israel was fascinating.
Our second week was spent touring
the north. During our stay in Tiberias,
we visited almost every great rabbi's
gravesite there. We went to Safed, a city
like none other, an amazing combina-
tion of Kabbalah (mysticism), art and
Making The Connection
here was life in Israel before the
advent of electronic mail and
the Internet. It was just a lot
more sheltered and less inter-
esting. Today, it's hard to imagine living in
Israel without easy, near-instant access
to the outside world via cyberspace.
Like it is for some two million other
Israelis, going on line has become an
intrinsic part of my daily routine. The
reason is simple. It greatly enlarges my
sphere of knowledge and communica-
tion, both on the personal and profes-
sional levels. Equally important, it
also makes me feel less removed from
the rest of the planet, helping offset
Israel's isolation in the Middle East.
Every morning before breakfast, I
crank up the computer, log on and let
my fingers loose on the keyboard con-
necting me to a world far beyond the
confines of my little workroom in
southern Jerusalem. Within seconds,
Robert Sarner is a senior reporter-editor
on Israel's only daily, English-language
TV news show. Before moving to Israel
in 1990, he was a writer and magazine
editor in Paris and Toronto. His e-mail
address is email@example.com
my screen comes alive with a parade
of words and images from across town
and around the globe.
Invariably, the first catch of the day is
a mix of sobering headlines from the
Web sites of Ha'aretz or the Jerusalem
Post and personal letters from friends
faraway. Due to the huge time differ-
ence between Israel and North America,
my early morning e-mail is mosdy from
people for whom it was the evening
when they pressed the "send" button.
For me, the day has just begun.
Before it's over I will check my e-mail
many times. E-mail has become a com-
pulsive habit. I use it as tool not just for
work, but also for maintaining personal
bonds. Without it, I would feel adrift.
Since first acquiring e-mail in 1998,
it has increased considerably my con-
tact with people, especially those
abroad. Receiving fresh, immediate
correspondence from people I know —
albeit cold, typewritten text — makes
me feel more connected, more ground-
ed. The fact that I never know what I
will receive next further enhances the
medium — and the message.
Sometimes, it's at the saddest
moments that I receive the most mes-
sages. Within hours, sometimes min-
steps weaving throughout.
We spent the Lag b'Omer holiday
with the Youth Group from Moshav
Sde' Yaakov. We had a bonfire, went
mountain climbing and rafted in the
Jordan River. We finished our mifgash
(meeting) at a kosher McDonald's!
For our final week, we traveled all the
way down to Eilat, possessing some of
the best-preserved coral reefs in the
world. Even Israel's geography is amaz-
ing! In less than two hours of driving, we
passed forest, desert, mountains, plains
and sand dunes. Everywhere we went
there was so much building going on.
Our last day was Yom Yerushalayim
(Jerusalem Day), which we spent in
Jerusalem. All traffic was shut down in
most of the city to allow masses of
people and parades to walk miles to
the Kotel. The scene was right out of
ancient times. We marched and danced
for four miles from Gan-soccer, right
next to the Knesset, to the Western
Wall. Almost everyone on the street
was dressed in blue and white, carrying
an Israeli flag. I saw almost every per-
son we had met in Israel. The whole
country was in Jerusalem.
I cannot decide the highlight of our
• Masada, an outstanding climb
challenge combined with unbelievable
tales of Jewish courage — bravery,
stamina, stubbornness and belief in the
face of the Roman aggressors.
• The Golan Heights, with one-third
of Israel's water supply, from the beau-
tiful Banias waterfalls and Dan and
Chatzbani rivers to the moshavim
(farming communities) and kibbutzim
(cooperative settlements) full of warm-
hearted, loving people.
• The Negev, untouched by human
hands from the beginning of time.
Israel is truly a wonderful place to be!
On behalf of my class, I would like
to thank Rabbi Dr. Yigal Tsaidi for
organizing our marvelous trip, pushing
us to fund-raise and especially for tak-
ing us. Thank you, the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit,
for your unwavering support of our
trip and of Southfield-based Akiva.
Thanks also to: Amos, our driver-
hero and Yakov, our tour guide, with-
out whom we would have been stuck
many times; Haggai and Shachar, our
security guards and medics for taking
care of us every step of the way; Talya
Schostak, our counselor-adopted par-
ent-sister, for always being there for us;
and all of our hosts in Israel.
And thank you to all of our parents
for giving us this amazing opportunity,
a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
times something I send out
utes, of a major terrorist attack
gets buried unread in the
in Jerusalem, friends, relatives
flood of other e-mail:
and former colleagues abroad
The main annoyance and
write me to express their con-
scourge for e-mail users is
cern and solidarity and to make
spam, the unsolicited come-
sure my family and I are OK.
ons from advertisers offering
E-mail and the Internet have
mosdy useless, tasteless and
also helped me stay better
often pornographic products.
informed about Israel, ironically
is the electronic equiva-
often through material sent to me
lent of junk mail in your letter-
by people living in other coun-
Comm entary box, only sleazier. More infuri-
tries. Friends frequently e-mail
ating, most spam arrives in the
me articles, columns, press releas-
guise of genuine e-mail with little hint
es and other information relating to Israel.
of its true origin or commercial pitch.
In addition, I receive various foreign-
One of the thrills of e-mail is to
based, Israel-related newsletters, distrib-
receive letters from long-lost friends or
uted by e-mail, ranging from honestre-
colleagues who have tracked you
porting.com to the Britain Israel
down thanks to the Internet. It's hap-
Communication and Research Center
pened to me several times and I've
focusing on developments in the Middle
also done the same in reverse. To
East I might not otherwise have seen.
reconnect with people after years,
Like it is with most technological
decades, is a great experi-
innovations, even the most-welcomed
ence, one accentuated for me given
ones, e-mail also has its flipside. Its
that I'm physically so removed from
ease can be its curse when you're on
my past lives in Canada and France.
the receiving end of so much material.
It's now five years since Internet first
The sheer volume received via e-mail,
entered my home. Although it's become
including the interesting stuff, is often
a daily staple, I still sometimes sit trans-
daunting. On most days, the e-mail
fixed at my computer, mesmerized by
overload would be a tough challenge
the apparent magic of it all. I shudder
for even the most open-minded speed-
to think what it would be like without
reader. Inevitably, many worthwhile
it, and that includes the e-mail readers
items I receive don't get the attention
send me in reaction to my column. ❑
they deserve. Likewise, there are surely