Israel & the Shabbat Project
In the merit of Shabbat and the beauty of Jewish unity may we only know times of joy and triumph.
I am writing this from The Shabbat Project global call centre in Tel Aviv, where calls are being fielded in 8 languages from 550 cities in 70 countries around the world. The office is in a building called Mind Space. It is a shared office space; a hub of dynamic Israeli start-up companies that share facilities and collabarate in an innovative way. Seeing all the young energetic people in the atmosphere of frenzied creativity you would never know that the country is under attack from a wave of brutal acts of terror.
During the last few days while in Israel for The Shabbos Project, I have been so inspired to witness first-hand the remarkable heroism of the people of Israel in the face of so many assaults on innocent men, women and children. Israelis go about their daily lives with determination and dignity in defiance of the violence. In this spirit it has been a privilege to see how so many Israelis are preparing for this year’s Shabbat Project, preparing to host events in cities and open spaces in a brave declaration to the violent enemies of civilisation that the people of Israel will not be intimidated.
On Sunday, I met with the municipality of Ashkelon, who are planning to host more than fourteen events for The Shabbat Project across the city. Their enthusiasm and joy for the project is infectious and uplifting. From the south to the north of the country, where I met the brave men and women of the Ramat David Air Force Base, who are charged with the awesome responsibility of protecting the skies over the State of Israel. The officers and personnel of the air force base are excited partners of The Shabbat Project and are preparing to welcome this coming Shabbos with a momentous Kabbalat Shabbat and evening ‘tisch. In the midst of the national security crisis, even the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, joined in a launch of the project from the Israeli parliament buildings. He spoke so movingly of how his faith sustained him through his years of imprisonment in Soviet Russia, and how today at the centre of the turbulence of Israeli politics Shabbos gives him so much strength and peace.
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them”, God exhorted Joshua more than 3300 years ago, as he was about to lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel. Today the same message of courage calls to every Jew in Israel to summon the faith and fortitude to withstand the fiercest trials.
As Jewish communities, from Montreal to Melbourne, from London to Los Angelos and from Antwerp to Rio prepare for this week’s Shabbat Project, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jewish people’s answer to everything that stands against us, apart from the security measure being undertaken, is to strengthen ourselves through the Torah which defines us.
Shabbat tells the story of a world created by God with compassion and love. It tells the story of a Creator who created every human being in His image; it tells the story of family togetherness, of Jewish history – born in liberation from Egyptian slavery – and ultimately Jewish destiny. It is a vision for a better world for all.
As we all gather, in greater numbers than ever before, to embrace the warmth and power of Shabbos – it is in the spirit of unity and solidarity with the people of Israel and indeed world Jewry. We draw strength from knowing who we are and where we come from. We draw strength in recognising what we are connected to – to God and to His Shabbos.
We draw stregth in our comitment to the Jewish people and the land of Israel no matter what voices or organizations rise against it.
We draw strength and confidence, often in the face of great adversity directed at Israel by sectors of our society.
“Chazak chazak venitchazek” – “Be strong, be strong and let us take strength”, are the words we declare together as we complete a book of the Torah. These words give us the clarity of purpose and the inspiration to achieve greatness both in times of pain and times of joy, in times of adversity and triumph.
In the merit of the holiness of Shabbos and the beauty of Jewish unity may we only know times of joy and triumph and see the fulfilment of the verse, “God will grant His people strength; God will bless His people with peace”.
The Shabbat Project will be taking place this year on October 23-24, in more than 550 cities and 65 countries around the world.