A View From Israel

August 2021

Why Visiting Mount Herzl Inspires Jewish Pride

By Leah Garber

In his will, Theodor Herzl, visionary of the Jewish state, wrote: “I wish to be buried in the vault beside my father, and to lie there till the Jewish people shall take my remains to Israel.” Forty-five years later, the Jewish people fulfilled Herzl’s wish—a year after the Jewish state he had envisioned was founded.

Recently, the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Av marked the 72nd anniversary of the date Herzl’s remains were brought to Israel and buried on the eponymous Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The site also is the final resting place of the nation’s leaders and IDF soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Once a year, I am privileged to join one of the JCC teen groups visiting in Israel for a month-long educational journey, and together we go to the holy Israeli mountain that bears the name of our country’s distinguished dreamer, thinker, and activist. My annual pilgrimage revives my Jewish pride, gratitude, and appreciation—and reminds me of the heavy, endless, painful price we pay so teens from around the world can visit our sovereign Jewish state.

A few weeks ago, I joined a group of CITs from Emma Kaufmann Camp, part of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, for the trek. Raised in families for whom Jewish education and Jewish camp are top priorities, they represent all that is good and beautiful in North America’s vast Jewish community. There was a sublime feeling in the air on Mount Herzl that day, as if we were walking on sacred ground that treasures not only devotion and faith, but also unfulfilled dreams, interrupted love affairs, brotherhoods of warriors. In that soil is an uncompromising belief in the righteousness of Herzl’s vision and our existence as a people in an independent, sovereign, Jewish, and democratic state.

In the scorching mid-summer sun, we walked in silence, attentive to the stories of Vadim, the group’s tour guide. His poignant telling of Israeli stories, in times of war and times of peace, ensures they will live in the psyche of these American teens—and affect who they

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