Israel Comes to Pearlstone

Reflections from Israelis who have lived at Pearlstone.

Michal Wetzler

In 2018, I came to do shlichut at Pearlstone in Maryland. Since I was the first shlicha, I didn’t really know what to expect, but after a conversation with Jakir Manela, I knew that this would be the right place for me. It’s not just a place of shlichut that holds all the things I believe in, it’s also a family-mishpacha.

The shlichut at Pearlstone deepened my Jewish identity and made it clearer for me how Judaism is deeply connected to the earth and to our roots in Israel.  

I found at Pearlstone and in Baltimore so many beautiful people that made me feel part of their family and that we are all one.

I learned so much in the time I was at Pearlstone, and I feel that just as I came to do shlichut at Pearlstone, Pearlstone continued with me to do shlichut in Israel.

Israel is my home.

Archeological evidence shows that Israel is the home of the Jewish people for at least 3300 years.

Our roots are in Israel land in the soil, in the trees, in the history, in the seasons. Every rock can tell a story.

The same as a tree that without his roots cannot hold for a long time, so as people.

Michal Wetzler, Pearlstone 2018 Shlicha, with her children in Israel

The Jewish people must keep their roots and they are in Israel.

When my grandmother and grandfather came to the land of Israel after the Holocaust with no family, they built here a country, a Kibbutz, a home, so there will be *no* more Jewish refugees in the world! So that every Jewish person on earth will know that they have a *safe* place to be in, to feel at home. And this is our right and obligation to keep it. No matter where we are in the world.

This war that came upon us now made it clear once again that we must be obligated to this mission. Today it’s our responsibility, tomorrow it will be our children’s.

With all the darkness around in times like this, we can see how our people are strong, united, and help each other with all their heart. There is so much love and warmth between people, despite every dispute and politics. There are so many new initiatives in Israel and from all over the world that help Israelis that need it in every aspect of life.

Those are small lights that come together into a big light that eliminate the darkness. I believe in that light! I believe in us.

I’m praying for all the hostages to come back home with no harm. For the safety of all our soldiers and people. And for peace and love to all humanity.

Am Israel Chai

David Ben Yehuda

When I came to Pearlstone, I was at the farthest point of my Jewish and Israeli identity. I also felt very far from the American Jewish community. I was doing my studies at the Arava Institute and I was finding myself with a lot questions about the role of religions in this conflict, the role of Zionism, Israel identity, and I also learned a lot about minimalism and the problems with the environment. I also felt very far from the American culture which is very consumptive. Michal was telling me about this option of shlichut and I just felt this inner call to go and find myself. To go and find answers to all of these questions.

I’m still getting a lot out of this shlichut. A lot every day and still picking and harvesting the fruit of the seeds that were put there. Because at Pearlstone, first of all, I felt so much amount of love. It was unbelievable. I really felt for the first time in my life Ahavat Yisrael. I felt so welcome and so supported.

I got the experiential education and at Pearlstone I really felt what experiential education is. All of my life, growing up in a secular place, and then being educated academically, it was all separated: spirituality, and wisdom, and knowledge and practice. At Pearlstone it was all together. It was being out in nature and talking and trying together to connect, and connecting to Hashem together, and to our Jewish values. It was in everything we did, the way we worked, organizing our system, and the way would talk to each other, and the way we were building the programs (the program education). So, its really to bring the spirit, to bring Hashem to our life. I felt it was naturally coming back to my place and my role in this world. I felt connected to my Jewish identity and Jewish roots. I really felt what Judaism has to offer us.

David Ben Yehuda, Pearlstone 2019 and 2020 Shaliach

Now I don’t know how to educate without the Torah, without Hashem. It was Shabbat and Havdalah and the Jewish calendar that becomes the framework for life. To make my own rituals, and creating social events, and so forth. I really got a lot of answers for my questions and there were more questions to come, which is actually the Jewish way. A lot of experiences, a lot of stories, a lot of feelings of shlichut, mitzvot, such a great gift to live with shlichut, to know that people care about what you have to say. That you are important to people and that your personality and your soul has something to give to these people and to the world.

It is a hard question because I feel like this war and this disaster on the deepest level it made me into a true disaster. I feel that I need to reconsider all of my truth again and what I thought was right and wrong.

But why do I believe in Jews and the Israeli people? Because at the end of the day I am a Jewish man. I live in Israel and this is my home, these are my people. And I believe in us in the same way that I believe in myself. Our story is unbelievable. It is unreal. There is something godly, divine intervention in our story. If you go over the history and you see what is happening to us right now and how it has influenced the entire world. How we are so connected when the Jews here in Israel are having difficult times it effects the entire Jewish community. How being the most split and conflicted society has become the most united society and all of the volunteering and solidarity that we have seen in the last couple of weeks is just unreal. Everyone cares about each other and when there are kidnapped people we all feel that it is our brothers and sisters. And when the soldiers are on the frontier, we all feel like it is our brothers and sisters. It is just unbelievable.

I feel like the Jewish people, we have a role in this world. I feel like we are really trying to bring some divine morals to this world. I feel we are being challenged by a really hard time and to act. We are doing great. We are just so amazing. We are so unique. We are like Avraham, we are fighting for the right for everyone to be themselves and to be unique in a way. And obviously our story is so special. And here in Israel we are at the center of the world. Also spiritually, inside of the Israel light we have black and white, like the Ethiopian and Russian Jews. We have Eastern and Western societies coming together and we have all the conflicts of the entire world, we can find them inside of Israeli people.

We have this divine love called Ahavat Israel that gives us/makes us am segulah, because of this divine love we can bring some unconditional love first to ourselves and then we can bring some unconditional love inside of Israel. We can transcend here left and right wings. Throughout the entire world left and right wings are being conflicted and it is obvious that they will hate each other. But in Israel there is an option for something else to happen. There can be left and right wings and they can have different opinions and at the same time they can love each other and work together to support each other.

And the second side of Ahavat Israel is from outside. If we are able to be ourselves, and this is what we’ve been doing for thousands of years, and we can fight for being authentic nation and authentically ourselves, we are creating for the whole entire world our ability to be authentic and to be different. So while we are bringing Ahavat Israel, when we love Israel, we make the whole world legitimate to love Israel, which is the concept that everyone can be themselves in this world and there is no need to be the same. And when everyone is connected with their soul, we can unite together. With all my love much thanks. And I wish for all of us very good years to come and all of the people to be returned and for establishing peace in our region that will radiate through the whole entire world.

Ortal Israel

Shalom everyone, Ortal here.

If we haven’t met, I was the shlicha at Pearlstone last year. I had the pleasure to live in this beautiful place, and to be a part of the special community living on campus.

I am from a beautiful, small Moshava called Metulla. It is the most northern town in Israel.

As you know, five weeks ago, on October 7th, our reality in Israel changed completely.

Metulla, as the most northern place in Israel, right on the Lebanese border, got evacuated. Only two weeks after coming back from Maryland, I packed a bag and left my home… again.

The current reality we live in Israel, and in all Jewish communities around the world, is too far-fetched for the human brain to comprehend. We are fighting for our lives; many of our friends are currently protecting our country. All of us have been forced to leave our everyday life and move somewhere.

Ortal Israel (far right), Pearlstone 2023 Shlicha, operating a bike blender at Pearlstone

In the past weeks, I’ve seen an amount of grief I never thought I’d encounter in my lifetime. But with this grief, comes a strong need for community and unity. In these unimaginably hard times, our little crazy country-a place where people can debate about everything-is now fighting side by side. People who never met each other, come to show support at funerals and shivas. Communities that welcomed the members of the kibbutzim from the south, those that lost half of their community members, are helping them build resilience, and we are doing so together. There are so many examples of this unity in our community, that if I were to mention them all, it would make this letter to be a whole megilah!

I believe that this is what the Jewish and Israeli people truly value. Throughout history there were so many people and nations that have tried to get rid of us. The thing they fail to understand is that every time they try, they just make us stronger, and ultimately more resilient. Every time someone tries to break this community down, we build it back to be stronger than ever.

I believe that in the end of this war, when people from the south and the north are able to return back to their homes, and when ALL THE HOSTAGES ARE SAFELY BACK HOME, something new will come to our lives. I believe that after this time of mass destruction and darkness, there must be at least an equal amount of resurrection and light. We, the Israeli and Jewish communities, are now doing everything we can in order to support the national group effort.

This is my request to you. It doesn’t matter if you are Jewish or not, Israeli or not, no matter where you come from, I only ask you to be a human being, and support us in these turbulent times. It can be in any way you feel comfortable with; share an (informative and verified) post, send a kind word, give donations, support small businesses in Israel, or anything else.

This is our time to stand together as a larger community and support the right side of history.

Toda, and in hope for better days,


“There will be no victory of light over darkness, as long as we do not realize the simple truth, that instead of fighting the darkness, we must increase the light”. – A.D Gordon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *