Dan Brosgol is the Director of Prozdor and a native Bostonian passionate about sports, Israel and running when he's not chasing around his five kids. Dan also blogs for JewishBoston, Hebrew College, and The Bedford Citizen.
Far Away and Still at Home: Israel and Our Interfaith Family
May 9, 2014
|Dan with his wife in Israel|
It may not have been love at first sight, and like many relationships, the early days weren’t the smoothest, especially when I took off for Israel following my graduation while the future Mrs. Brosgol had another year left of college. As I meandered through a year of
procrastinating volunteering, she slogged through nine months of student teaching, waitressing at the Iguana Cantina and finishing up her double-minor. Perhaps the odds weren’t in our favor.
In February of that year, she got her passport, boarded a transatlantic flight for the first time, and landed in Israel during the height of the Second Intifada, much to the chagrin of her father, who was none too happy that she was flying off to a war zone to visit her boyfriend. That week we spent in Israel together, driving from Haifa to Eilat and everywhere in-between, was eye-opening not only for her, but for me. I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the first time and I gave her advice on how to dress at the Kotel (Western Wall). We still keep the picture of us under the orange tree at the Bahai Gardens in Haifa on the sun visor of our car.
It’s fair to say that she fell in love with Israel then, despite the fact that red flags were raised at the airport when an olive-skinned guy who spoke Hebrew dropped off a blonde girl who did not and said goodbye. Very, very suspicious… So much so that she was questioned for a good half hour about her ticket, who paid for it and whether or not her father was an Israeli citizen. Yes, that happened.
Even without the security protocols and the Intifada, it was a memorable trip for both of us, as was our trip together in 2002 on a Federation-sponsored solidarity mission to Israel. That was also quite a week, as tourism had ground to a halt due to the violence; we ended up staying in amazing places like the King David Hotel and the dollar was unbelievably strong against the shekel.
|Dan's sons praying at the Kotel|
As I reflect on the meaning of Israel to our interfaith family, it’s not a stretch to say that Israel remains for us an ideal of something we can all share that is (relatively) uncontroversial. While we have bumped into discomfort and non-welcoming attitudes here at home, in general we have found Israel to be so happy to welcome us that it really isn’t relevant that we’re not both Jewish. While my perception is that the openness of American Judaism to non-Jews is an issue that needs fixing, I have found Israel to be exceptionally welcoming of visitors who are not Jewish. Beyond that, I’ve spent both Christmas and Easter in Jerusalem, and it’s remarkable to see how Jerusalem is alive with an entirely different sprit on those two festivals.
As we strive to instill a love of Israel and Judaism in our kids, there’s a subtle comparison to be made about how Christianity and Judaism have an interesting and symbiotic relationship in both our family and in Israel. There’s something to be explored there that would be fascinating to do as an entire family.
Just the other day, as I was driving my daughter to pre-school, she was talking about Frozen songs, ballet, and the other usual topics when she said, “Daddy, the next time you go to Israel can you bring me…”
I was waiting for the final words. “…a snow globe? …a soccer jersey? …a ring?” I wasn’t sure. After a few seconds, I asked her “Can I bring you what?”
Wouldn’t that be amazing? One day, perhaps soon, we will all be in Israel together. There’s talk of us going in 2016 for our eldest’s Bar Mitzvah, which would be amazing, but in any case, my younger daughter’s already advocating for herself for the next trip.