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Leah's BlogLeah’s Blog – Parashat Tazriah 2024

Leah’s Blog – Parashat Tazriah 2024

The Jordan River- the place of the birth of Israel

Date Palms, olive trees and pomegranates adorn the banks of the Jordan River here in this spot. It is overcast today and an unusual breeze lifts up the foliage in a backdrop of dusty marlstone, the sky matching the earth. White powdery clay humps stretch from here all the way across the river that flows here in a muddy runnel. At this cozy corner the river feels more like a brook; reeds on both sides most probably had Israel breathing easy – it looking similar to places on the Nile. Aloe Vera bushes adorn the neat boundary of Beit Hoglah (BETAGLA), the original site of Gilgal, the place of the passing of Am Yisrael into the land of Israel.


The tents of the newly born nation rested here for fourteen years. Jericho, seven kilometers away and an open expanse for two million people to inhabit. Setting up camp, I can see how it felt in this site – peaceful. Even now, as Israel has experienced a horror like no other since the holocaust, and is now facing the most potential threat since the war of independence, it feels (aside from the constant drone of surveillance in the air) calm, tranquil, balmy. Here you feel protected. 3,400 years have passed and we are still under His wing. Today we are standing in the place where it all began- “וירשת אותה- וישבת בה”. “For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the Lord your G-d is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it.”

This is the lowest place on earth. Joshua led in a nation- an illusion, a déjà vu or is this familiar -a pattern Israel follows even from the first kernels when our nation was just a small family. A prior existence of Abraham entering from the east, then Yaakov leaves no doubt that this place feels humble, recognizable. It is a past incarnation, no mirage; you feel it in the air. Yaakov walked away from here and became Israel, independent of any outside forces that “helped” him and made him reliant, vulnerable and powerless. Wobbling, but free, with his staff in his hand- he came home, swimming across the river. There is a famous Rembrandt of it.

When Joshua led Israel in, a nation finally reached THE destination after wandering for forty years – through these waters, the birth. Here we were circumcised of flesh and hearts.

We all need to pass through. This is the time, Nissan. The exodus ends here. New beginnings, Spring calls us to festivals. “Today I released you from the shame of Egypt.” We set a cup for Eliyahu on our seder table. Eliyahu, who walked these banks of the Jordan and who went up in a chariot of fire from here. Rabbi Menachem Mendle Kasher in his unique Haggadah that also included the miracle of living in the times of return to Zion wrote: “We established a State. Now we need to place a fifth cup on the table- “And I brought you into the Land.” Israel is the purpose of leaving Egypt!” Here we rose and rise to the highest of spiritual heights.

In the biblical allotments of the Land, the border of Bejamin and Yehudah begins here, running west through the Temple Mount. Today only 7,000 Jews live in the Jordan Valley but it is of burning critical strategic importance, not only for history’ sake but for its security, to implement sovereignty here now. Israel’s eastern border has had a rash of serious terror incidents and attempts in these last months.

This year as we sit at our seders, remember the Land and the sacred places here. If you can, try and visit them and if you can’t then do the next important thing and support.

Blessings from the Jordan River! Shabbat Shalom! Leah





1 Comment

  • Eric John Nagel

    Beautiful, full of the Promise and the coming rebirth!

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