Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, 12:00PM

I'm at the airport in Athens en route to Spain, with a stop-over in Rome. I have a few minutes before boarding and I'm seeking souvenirs. I am deliberating over a number of trinkets and pieces before settling on some small picture frames, shot glasses, bookmarks and magnets—all with scenery of Greece or Athens—to bring back to my children.

And then I notice a small hand-held tambourine, with a picture of ancient Athens painted across it. To me, the tambourine is a trademark of the Jewish woman, centuries ago in Ancient Egypt. Despite their terrible oppression and servitude, the Jewish women prepared tambourines while still suffering the horrors of slavery in Egypt because they were so full of faith that G‑d would finally "remember" them and redeem them. The only concern of these righteous women was to be adequately prepared to express the proper praise and thanks—with appropriate instruments of joy—when that moment finally arrived. Indeed, after miraculously crossing the Red Sea, with the Egyptians safely drowned behind them, the women, with Miriam at their head, took out these long-waiting instruments, and used them to sing and dance as they thanked G‑d for their delivery.

The symbolism of the tambourine here in Greece, with scenery of Athens painted across it, was too much for me to resist. Ignoring the inflated price tag, I purchase it.

Soon, soon, as the fight against modern assimilation is finally over, and the Jewish people unite from across the four corners of the world, this symbolism of the staunch Jewish faith, even with an Athens scenery, shall also be used...


I've boarded the plane. Again my mind travels back centuries to the age of the Roman Empire—the empire that ruthlessly destroyed our Holy Temple and cruelly chased us from our Homeland into exile. We still remain in that very exile to this day, with Jews dispersed across the vast globe, clinging tenaciously to shreds of faith, so as not to lose our identity or our connection with our Jewish soul and our People.

We land in Rome, but the only Emperor's artifact remaining here in this modern city is the glitzy sign greeting me hanging above the airport terminal: Giorgio Armani Emporium.


Due to an unexpected thunderstorm in Rome, my flight is delayed. Even without this delay, my schedule was tight, with less than two hours to relax in Barcelona before my next lecture. Now, with this delay, I being to worry that I won't make the lecture at all! I quickly remind myself that these things are out of my hands, and worries will have no power to make my flight take off any sooner...There is a Higher Power running this world, exactly as it should be...


Very much delayed, we finally approach the Barcelona airport. We are passing over a large body of water and all I can think of at this moment is how many rivers of tears must have been cried at this very place, centuries ago, when all the Jews were expelled from their native homes in Spain. And worse, how many rivers of blood were spilled here, with terrible acts of cruelty and torture, in the name of a loving religion, in trying to cruelly force the Jews to convert to Christianity.

I gather my bags. My driver is waiting to whisk me off to the lecture. I am told that the synagogue is only moments away from the airport and a large crowd is already patiently waiting.


It is not easy to run (literally!) straight from the airport, after traveling since the morning, into a large, crowded room of people waiting for your lecture. But the spirit in the room was so warm, so comfortable, and the people so receptive and accepting that I immediately felt calm.

I stayed for a long while after the talk, conversing with people, hearing about their lives, answering their questions and even just playing Jewish Geography. En route to the hotel, I was finally able to hear a little from the Liebersohns, shluchim (Chabad emmisaries) to Barcelona, about their life in Spain.

Dovid and Nechama Dina Liebersohn arrived here several years ago. At first the synagogue was in their own home, and it took years until it sufficiently expanded and was able to move into its own quarters in its present location. The full capacity crowd, with hardly room for another chair, was proof of the Liebersohns' hard and diligent work. Services for special holidays, Nechama tells me, are conducted in larger premises at rented hotels, as much more space is needed for the large crowds wishing to attend. And even tonight, the packed room made it is clear that they already need even larger premises.

Nechama had just given birth to a baby, only four weeks ago, but that didn't stop her from organizing, attending and socializing at this program—as well as preparing for me her trademark delicious food. Until recently, she tells me, she home-schooled all her children; but now with an online program run by the Shluchim Office, her children are able to learn online and are also able to socialize via the internet with other children in similar remote Jewish locations around the world.

The hour is very late and I am exhausted, so I have only a short time to speak to the Liebersohns. But their indomitable spirit and devotion to building up life in Barcelona is unquestionably clear.

I marvel how five hundred years after every single Jew was expelled from this country, there are dedicated shluchim staying at their posts here, doing whatever is in their power to revitalize Jewish life in Spain.