Monday, August 18, 2008

Circuit Riding Rabbi in Iraq

The Blackhawk skims the desert, the blackness of the sky making the horizon invisible. Occasional hints of the terrain below become visible from just a little bit of moonlight. The doors are open, and we feel the drone of the engine and the steady beating of the rotor. Suddenly the aircraft shifts and for a moment we're weightless, floating through the Iraqi night. Then the door gunners start firing and I see a flare heading for the ground. Moments later, it's as if nothing happened and we are once again, just as we were before.

I'm on my way back to Baghdad from Tikrit. It had been a nice Shabbos with the Jewish personnel on COB Speicher. Last time I was there it was Pesach; many of the same people were still there. We had a nice Shabbos dinner and oneg after services on Friday night, and really had time to sit and talk, and sing zemiros l'kavod Shabbos.

This is the first visit on a new coverage plan which I've set up with the Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I) for the next 6 months. Each Shabbos during the month I visit a Jewish congregation to lead services and train lay leaders. It's a lot of travel and staff work (administrative work, such as coordinating and scheduling movement). But it's so worthwhile. Our Jewish Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen need access to their rabbis, and unless we can convince the chaplain corps to send us out there, it doesn't happen. B"H, at least for the next couple of months I should be able to support that mission.