Monday, February 23, 2009

Trip to Petra, Jordan

Before the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, young Israelis would sneak across the border, make their way to Petra, send a postcard to prove it, and make their way back. Occasionally they would get caught and the government would have to intervene to get them home safely.

Now, one crosses to Jordan through the Yitzchak Rabin crossing just north of Eilat and takes a two-hour drive through beautiful mountainous desert terrain. Although the population of the area is sparse, the presence of Bedouin is scattered throughout the area. Although they still herd goats, most now live in permanent homes rather than tents (at the insistence of the government) and it is not unusual to see a satellite dish on their homes. The same is true of the Bedouins who populate the Negev in Israel.

Petra is an ancient Nabatean city, which most of us are familiar with from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But seeing the carved facades in person is incredible. We spent about four hours walking through the area that contains these carvings. Although much was preserved through the centuries, a lot has been restored. After the Nabateans, the area was home to the many other groups, including the Romans, Byzantine Christians (who built a church with a Mosaic floor that reminded me of the synagogue floor from Bet Alpha), and Ottomans. While each group left its mark on the area, an amazing amount of the original Nabatean carvings remain. Seeing them was an experience Barbara and I will never forget.

Tomorrow it is off to Jerusalem.

Bruce Kadden


Shabbat on the Kibbutz

Barbara and I spent a very restful Shabbat at Kibbutz Yahel. We went down to the fields which currently have onions and peppers. The date and pomelo seasons are over.

The fields go right up to the Jordanian border. In fact, the land they are on was originally Jordan. The border had been secretly moved back a number of meters so that the most fertile land was in Israel. This didn't seem to be a problem since there are no Jordanian settlements on the other side of the border. However, in 1993, when it came time to finalize the peace agreement, the Jordanians insisted that they be compensated for the land that was taken. So, just south of the fields of Yahel, the border was changed in an exchange of territory.

At the end of Shabbat we watched the loading of trucks with onions and peppers from the region for delivery to stores in northern Israel.

The kibbutz has changed signficantly since its early days, and even since we were here in 1990-1991. Like all kibbutzim, it was founded on the principle of eqaulity and sharing of expenses and income. All meals were eaten together in the dining hall and there was a great emphasis on the community.

Just as socialism was not able to sustain itself in much of Eastern Europe it has not been able to sustain itself in Israel. Adults now earn different salaries based on the work they do although they do pay a significant "tax" to the kibbutz to cover community costs. Families get a monthly food budget and each time one eats in the dining hall one is charged for the meal. While many commentators have lamented the demise of the kibbutz movement, others see a natural evolution as the kibbutz matures and faces new challenges.

We are looking forward to visiting Petra, in Jordan tomorrow.

Rabbi Bruce & Barbara Kadden

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rabbi Kadden Blogs from Israel!

Shalom from Israel. Three flights and 22 hours later we arrived safely in Eilat. The flights were uneventful; after arriving we learned that Three El Al planes had to land in Cyprus because flights to Israel were backed up due to a dust storm which closed one of the other airports.

It is wonderful to be back at Kibbutz Yahel, where we lived from 1990-1991. Yahel was the first Reform kibbutz, founded in 1976. Barbara and I were at the dedication because it was during the year we were studying at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. We chose to spend a year there when our children were young, making life-long friends.

The first members of Yahel were Reform Jews from the United States and other English-speaking countries as well as Israelis who had some connection to Reform Judaism. Over the years, others have joined the community.

Yahel is located in the Arava, the rift that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba. It is about 30 miles north of Eilat, on the border with Jordan. The kibbutz has dairy cows, sending the milk to Yotvata, a nearby kibbutz, where it is turned into a variety of the tastiest dairy products in the world. It also raises sheep that are sold for their meat, date orchards, fields of peppers and onions and pomelos, a citrus fruit similar to a grapefruit. In addition, they have guest houses for those who are visiting the area.

We are looking forward to tonight's Shabbat service which will be lead by students from Netzer, the international Reform youth movement, followed by Shabbat dinner in the dining hall.

The exciting news in the country is the decision to give Benjamin Netanyahu the opportunity to form a government and become Israel's next Prime Minister. It is not clear if he will form a government with the other right wing parties or will be able to create a coalition with the centrist parties.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bruce Kadden


Thursday, February 5, 2009

International Film & Food in Tacoma

The Seventh Annual Tacoma - Pierce County Sister Cities International Film & Food Festival begins today. Tacoma has "sister cities" in Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, Korea, Cuba, the Philippines, China, Norway and ISRAEL.

Please join the Temple Beth El community at the event honoring our Israeli sister city Kiryat-Motzkin, on February 19th at the Blue Mouse Theatre, 2702 North Proctor. The evening includes music, a slide show from our sister city, dinner and a movie. This year's film is "Ushpizin". Here are some excerpts from the New York Times review:

"The Israeli film "Ushpizin" is groundbreaking on more than one count. It is a rare collaboration between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis and one of the first movies filmed in the insular Jerusalem neighborhood Mea Shearim with ultra-Orthodox actors. Stylistically "Ushpizin" belongs to a classic tradition of raucous Yiddish comedy that is easy to enjoy..."

Tickets are $18.00 and can be purchased at the box office or at Temple Beth El. For more information, please visit