Our journey to Iwaki, Japan took us to the ancestral home of my mentor and friend, Dr. Yasuyuki Owada. It was an unforgettable connection in a setting that has been in my professor's family since the 16th century. We visited the family's graveyard, their Buddhist temple, their rice fields and reservoir. A year later, the tsunami and nuclear disaster struck this region. Thankfully, after being evacuated, the Owada family has returned to their home.
We also were in Srinigar, India in the Kashmir, a region that was among the lushest we had experienced with glaciers and rivers as captivating as the Canadian Rockies. We were welcomed by nomads, who move their families and flocks two hundred miles four times a year. The day after we left, sectarian violence broke out. The Kashmir is largely muslim, yet we were open about being rabbis and Jews, and were welcomed.
In Turkey, we experienced a Muslim country encountering modernity. We lived with a Kurdish family in a village near Sanliurfa for a week. We inhaled the majesty and mystery of Capadoccia, volcanic formations that resemble Gremlins' hats and underground cities that once protected over 30,000. The day after we left, there was a massive demonstration against Israel.
In Egypt, we explored some of the great cultural feats of human history. The sphinx, the Great Pyramid, the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. We walked through Tahrir Square a week before the demonstrations began.
Each of these experiences replenished us and made us as strangers, experience a special welcome. We are filled with awe for the beauty, history and culture in this world. We are also filled with a tremendous sense of the precariousness of the world and its inherent preciousness.
If you would like to see our extended letters on this journey, see the links below.
We return to celebrating Passover with new dreams of connection and new visions for the future.
Rabbis Laurie Rutenberg and Gary Schoenberg