I remember it like it happened yesterday. The year was 1979 and I was studying in BMT – Bet Midrash L’Torah, in Jerusalem. It was time for our first tiyul and our guide, Eli Horowitz, son of our Rosh Yeshiva was leading the hike. (Sad note: 24 years later, Rabbi Eli Horowitz and his wife, Adina, were brutally murdered by Arabs. May HaShem avenge their blood). Eli Horowitz, who had not yet been ordained as a Rabbi, was an amazing guide and told us to take water and a TaNaCH (Bible) for the tiyul.
A bus drove for about 45 minutes and we then started to hike. After a while, Eli told us to stop and open our TaNaCH’s. “It happened that when the Philistine (Goliath) arose and moved closer towards David that David hurried and ran to the line, towards the Philistine. David stretched his hand into the sack. He took a stone from there and slung it, and struck the Philistine in the forehead, and he fell upon his face… David overpowered the Philistine with the slingshot and stone, he smote the Philistine and killed him… he took (Goliath’s) sword… and he cut off his head” (Shmuel Aleph 17:48-51 – translation by ArtScroll).
Someone asked Eli why we stopped at this spot to read these verses in Shmuel Aleph. He smiled and then said words that I will never forget; “Because it happened right here.” I asked, “What do you mean in happened right here?” He looked at our puzzled faces and explained what now seems so obvious; “This battle of David vs Goliath happened in the same spot in which we are standing! As a matter of fact, most of the stories in TaNaCH happened in various places which we will visit throughout the year. Yes, I meant what I said; It happened in the same spot where we are standing right now!”
I have to admit that this was a life-changing moment for me. Until that point, the TaNaCH was full of stories - which I loved reading - but that I never connected to. Now, all of a sudden, those stories came to life. I was actually standing in the same spot as David when he killed the Jew-hating Goliath! The bravery and courage of a young David became real… and I felt it! It was incredible.
Imagine being able to do that, as part of your regular life. No need to fly across the world and spend a few thousand dollars… just take a drive from your home in Bet Shemesh, Efrat, Zichron Yaakov or from anywhere in the country and touch the very stones that witnessed Jewish history. Here’s a short list of the things you can do – 52 weeks a year - while living in Israel.
From the Torah: Visit Ma’arat Ha’Machpela, walk in the footsteps of Yaakov in Bet El or daven at the resting place of Momma Rochel.
From Yehoshua: Cross the Jordan in the exact place where Yehosha Bin-Nun led the Jewish Nation into Eretz Yisrael, relive the unbelievable event of the blessings and curses at Mount Eval and Mount Gerrizim and pray at Kever Yosef in Shechem.
From Shoftim: Climb Mount Tabor – site of the battle led by Devorah and Barak against Sisera, see where the mighty Shimshon defeated the Philistines and experience the tragic oath taken against the tribe of Binyamin in Mizpah.
From Shmuel: Walk through Shilo, at the site of the Mishkan – where Hannah prayed for a child and Shmuel (not me…) was born, then drive to Bet Shemesh to see where the Ark was returned after being held in captivity for many years and end the day with a tour of the birthplace of King David!
From Melachim: Go to the holiest place in the world – Har Ha’Bayit – the site of King Shlomo’s Bet Ha’Mikdash, head up north where Eliyahu prayed at Mount Carmel, visit the actual site where Elisha brought a child back to life and imagine yourself as King Hizkiyahu as you walk through the exact area of his battle against Sanhayrev, King of Assyria.
These are just a few examples of things you can do when you live in Israel… where the Torah comes to life! Here, we walk in the footsteps of the Prophets, learn Torah on the same roads as Rabbi Akiva and retrace the journey of the Ramban from Acco to Jerusalem. I often find the need to pinch myself to see if this is real or just a dream and Baruch HaShem it’s the real deal.
Dearest friends; come join us in the place where the Jewish past meets the Jewish present and together, let’s build a strong, proud, Torah-based society for the Jewish future!