In May 2021, fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza flared up again, and Israel — and Jews — were getting the brunt of the blame. At Congregation Beth El in Montgomery County, Rabbi Greg Harris wanted to find a way to show support for Israel that was unifying.
His answer was to support Magen David Adom (MDA), the country’s national ambulance and blood bank services. The Conservative congregation in Bethesda raised the money to purchase an ambulance to donate for use in Israel.
“Last May, the ambulance came from the factory. It was brought to Beth El,” said Harris on Tuesday from Israel, where he’s leading a group of 15 teenagers from the congregation on a 10-day tour. “It went into service in August in Tel Aviv.”
“MDA is a unifier,” the rabbi wrote on his Facebook page. “They respond to and care for anyone in need — regardless of ethnicity, religion, citizenship, or gender.”
Harris said his goal is to “build a culture in the synagogue of multiple access points to Israel. Part of the reason for this trip is to build relationships between Bethesda and Israel.”
As the group drove through Tel Aviv, the 10th and 11th graders kept an eye out for “our ambulance,” the rabbi said.
And on Sunday, they met the ambulance again.
The teens hopped inside for a selfie.
“They got to see that the distance between Bethesda and Israel is not so great,” Harris said.
The group’s visit, called the Sorkin Teen Israel Trip, was named in memory of Jerry Sorkin, a synagogue past president.
“His dream was that the Israel experience become a capstone for the religious school,” Harris said.
The group will be back in Bethesda on Jan. 1.