Recently, we asked longtime CBB member Marilyn Weixel to reflect on her recent travels to Israel, and the connection that keeps her returning. Below is her response.

“When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming.”  Elie Wiesel

People often ask me, when they hear of my family’s vacation travel plans, “Why do you go to Israel so often?  Don’t you want to see other places?”  I would just smile and say emphatically, “We love being in Israel.” And they would usually smile indulgently and go on to a different topic.

In reality, my family does love to travel to see new and interesting places (we’ve seen a good deal of Europe).  We had planned a big cruise to see new and interesting places for our 50th anniversary last August, but COVID intervened…and we still hope to be able to do this in the near future.  So why go back to Israel this past June for what was our 15th (and Elizabeth’s 5th) trip?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we go to Israel to BE, not to SEE.  We go because arriving in and being in Israel always feels like we are coming home.  The comfort of the familiar, and the excitement of the ever changing, evolving, and developing country that is Israel. (We have jokingly said that the national bird is the crane, since when you look out over the skyline, there are usually a large number of construction cranes.)

So, the natural question is why do we enjoy BEING in Israel so much?  I was talking about this with some CBB friends a little while ago, and one person suggested that it is the food. My eyes lit up…yes, the food is amazing!  The abundant, fragrant, and delicious fruit in the Mahane Yehuda market is amazingly sweet, the just-from-the-oven pastries at Marzipan are legendary, and the blending of the Mizrachi and Ashkenazi flavors and spices creates familiar yet exotic dishes. Yes, the food is a big reason to enjoy Israel, but that’s not it.

Another person put forward the idea that it the history and the archeology.  Again, my eyes lit up…yes, the history comes alive and almost everywhere you turn (especially in the old city) there are amazing structures that have been unearthed by archeologists that vividly tell the story of our Jewish ancestors going back thousands of years.  Yes, the history and archeology are wonderful reasons to enjoy Israel, but that’s not it.








Photos: (Top) Marilyn meeting Irem, a Givat Haviva International School student that Marilyn has tutored this year. (Bottom, left to right:) Elizabeth in front of the place we stayed, located in picturesque Yemin Moshe with a great view of the old city walls. Elizabeth with the Tower of David in the background. Elizabeth enjoying the bounty of Mahane Yehuda

Yet another person ventured that it is the story of the rebirth of the modern State of Israel and the emergence of Israel’s leadership in technology and innovation that is the reason we love Israel.  And again, my eyes lit up…yes, I love the story of the amazing transformation of the swampy, the arid, the backward area that was Israel a century and a half ago into the super “start-up nation” making the deserts bloom and the former swamps some of the most fertile farmland.  I swell with pride every time  I hear of an Israeli innovation that is saving lives or making the world a better place.  This is very important to me, but that’s not it either.

Still another friend opined that it must be the religious aspects of being in “the Holy Land” that makes it special for us.  I thought about this for a few minutes, and then I had to admit that we are more “religious” in Santa Barbara than when we are in Israel. With the exception of this past trip, when we went to a Friday evening “in the round” musical service with our friend Marcus, we haven’t attended religious services during all of our many trips to Israel; in contrast, we “religiously” attend Friday evening services at CBB (pun intended!)

Just then, a “lightbulb” went on in my head.  I finally realized why we travel to Israel as much as we can.

It is because in Israel we can BE Jewish and share the amazing variety of Jewish experiences and expressions by just BEING.  It is the opportunity to BE Jewish, to live according to Jewish rhythms and time as part of everyday life.  The frenzy of activity on Friday at the market, the hush on the streets of Jerusalem as the sun sets welcoming Shabbat.  The change of pace on Shabbat, whether that be a sundrenched family day at the beach in Tel Aviv, or a day of prayer and study in Jerusalem, or endless varieties of “special” throughout the country.  In Israel, I can BE Jewish just by BEING.

Every time we land in Israel, and go up to Jerusalem, I truly feel as if I have come home!