By Jeff Hersch
When’s the last time life surprised you? You felt something entirely unexpected? Even surprised yourself? For me, it was the first time I stood on Israeli soil.
If I ask friends and family who’ve visited Israel, they all echo this sentiment. For many, there is something electrifying about that first step onto Israeli soil. A thrilling sense of “I’m home.”
There are many reasons why people travel to Israel. Some feel a need to connect to their Jewish roots. Some simply want to sip great Israeli wine and enjoy traveling the stunning landscapes. Others want to immerse themselves in the history of the land, visiting both spiritual and secular destinations.
Many of us board our planes thinking we’re going to enjoy one type of experience and yet, once we touch down and see Israel with our own eyes, we find ourselves overwhelmed by feelings we didn’t even know we had.
This was my experience when I made my first trip to Israel through Birthright Israel, which gives young adults ages 18 - 26 a 10-day all expenses paid trip to Israel with a group of their peers. The trips are funded by Birthright supporters, including the Jewish Federation. But the “Birthright effect” is available to people of every age.
My Birthright trip mates and I sat on a narrow staircase eating falafel overlooking mountains and discussing our lives, we realized a feeling none of us had ever quite experienced before. It was a strong sense of safety and serenity, luck and pride. None of us were very religious at all, but physically being in Israel connected us to our ancestors and history, struggles of the past and present. The idea of being completely surrounded by Jews put all preconceived fears at ease, and we felt free to roam around and speak freely to anyone and everyone. And we did.
Would you like to experience the same feeling of wonder and utter feeling of belonging? Would you like life to surprise you? If you want to recapture a sense of awe, and feel feelings you didn’t know you had, go to Israel.
One of the core missions of The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is to help Jews develop stronger ties with their Jewish identity and community, and offering exceptional (and exceptionally affordable) trips to Israel is one of the ways the Federation fulfills this goal.
There are several types of trips that are coming up to serve different needs and interests. Don't miss out.
For families who want a well-organized, affordable and truly impactful trip, the Winter Journey to Israel, from December 25, 2017 to January 4, 2018, is a perfect travel opportunity. For mature Jews who didn’t participate in Birthright, there’s a second chance to have that experience through a special, Birthright-style trip for adults.
The Federation also empowers our non-Jewish, faith community partners’ desire to make their own journey to our shared Holy Land, by organizing an Interfaith Clergy mission. Keith Krivitzky, CEO and Executive Director for the Federation, made the inaugural trip last year with 27 spiritual leaders of different faiths and he feels the trip was not only successful, but necessary:
“Participants had varying opinions and levels of understanding coming into this trip, Jewish and non-Jewish participants alike. They were able to gain new perspectives. Each participant is now able to write his or her own positive narrative about Israel and share their own experiences. In fact, toward the end of the trip, several clergy expressed they were both impressed and grateful we presented a balanced program with many different points of view. The trip was not intended to make participants into Zionists or Israel ambassadors, but to enable them to witness how complicated the situation is, and how simple answers or support for one-sided narratives would not be just or effective.”
For many Jews, a trip to Israel is a defining moment in our lives with a deeply personal, spiritual and emotional impact, but it’s not only a destination for those who are moved by a need for revelation. There are many, many marvelous reasons to visit the “land of milk and honey.”
Ready to explore options for making your own trip and making your own life’s story bolder, more interesting?
What will you discover? What adventures are waiting for you? What memories will you bring home with you?
Find out for yourself. Let The Federation in the Heart of New Jersey help!
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