Ma tovu ohalekha Ya'akov, mishk'notekha Yisra'el…. (Numbers 24:5)
How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!
So begins a familiar prayer, sometimes called Balaam’s blessing, in our Shabbat services that expresses the wonder and cohesiveness of the Jewish nation. Balaam, a local prophet of sorts sent by a hostile king to lay a curse upon the Jews as they crossed the plains of Moab, was rendered unable to utter the curse and found instead that words of wonder and praise came forth from his lips.
On May 31, 2015, our own Jewish community assembled its tents not on the plains of Moab, but on the upper and lower fields of Gann Academy in Waltham as we gathered for Celebrate Israel Boston 2015, an event that involved nearly a year of planning and the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, performers and professionals from organizations and companies based in Boston, New York and Israel. The goal was to come together as one diverse, growing and vibrant community to celebrate and to enjoy the talents of many and the company of all who love and care for Israel.
More than 3,000 people attended the day-long event, and while some may focus on the torrential downpours that forced many of the outstanding musical acts, performers and much of the crowd indoors, I think many more will remember the spirit of community and unity that were by far the most important features and the overarching goals of an incredible day.
Even as the skies opened and the winds howled and we gathered first in those tents (quite literally), our community celebrated in the best ways and the ways that we always have – by laughing, singing, dancing and, of course, eating.
Those of us who are engaged daily in the effort to advocate for Israel frequently and of necessity focus on the many external threats to Israel, whether they relate to safety and security, boycotts and delegitimization, or political isolation. We craft strategies to confront and overcome these challenges as best we can.
We know, however, that success can only be assured when we come together in a spirit of community. In fact, our strength has always come from our unity in the face of adversity.
That’s why even as the rain came down in sheets on Celebrate Israel Boston, I couldn’t help but look out on the tents that stretched across the fields in Waltham and remark on their beauty and the greater beauty and strength within.
Ma tovu ohalekha Ya'akov, mishk'notekha Yisra'el….
How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel …
Rain or no rain, truer words were never spoken.