(December 3rd to December 15th, 2011)
This year’s 2011 Israel Mission (December 3rd to 15th, 2011) was directed primarily, though not exclusively to participants who had never before journeyed to our ancestral homeland.
Our 2011 participants included Marna Berman, Joyce Chizever, Robin Gittleman, Michael Krakow and Fran Olick, Charlene and Joel Ostro, Lorraine and Stephen Schur, Paul Solomon, Karen and Joel Vener, Phyllis and Michael Weinberg, Mark Silverberg and Barry and Jay Weiss.
As has always been the case, tears of joy and pride over the achievements made by the Jewish state in improving the lot of humanity in virtually every field of human endeavor were mixed with tears of sorrow when matched against the terrible price Jews have paid throughout the eons of time, and the price Israelis continue to pay to insure the survival of the Jewish state today – surrounded as it is by those who are ideologically committed to its destruction.
On Masada, the Herodian fortress that fell to the Roman Empire two millennia ago ending the Second Jewish Commonwealth, Mission participants vowed to their People and to the Third Jewish Commonwealth (the modern State of Israel), that they would do all in their power upon their return to America to insure that “Masada shall never fall again.” All bowed their heads as a sign of respect to those who died there.
This year’s participants ventured to …..
- the Herodian port city of Caesaria and the Roman amphitheater that is still used for Israeli festivals
- walked through the caves of Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanon border
- journeyed through the city of Tiberias on Lake Kinneret and shared its history
- prayed in a medieval synagogue in Safed
- walked through the ancient Bet She’an excavations dating back to ancient times
- descended into the former Syrian bunkers on the Golan Heights and overlooked a major battlefield where hundreds of Israeli soldiers died defending the Jewish state during the Yom Kippur War
- walked through the Old City in Jerusalem
- journeyed along the Western and Southern Walls of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem
- descended into the Kotel tunnel recently excavated along the base of the Western Wall and touched the foundation stones laid during the time of King Solomon
- visited Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Memorial) and the Hall of Mirrors representing the faces of 1.5 million children who were slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II
- participated in an archeological dig for Western Wall artifacts near Jerusalem (finding several significant ancient artifacts in the process)
- overlooked the Mount of Olives cemetery that has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years and holds over 150,000 graves including those of prophets, Zionist leaders, rabbis, writers, and an Israeli prime minister
- drove to the Machal memorial (dedicated to Diaspora Jews who died fighting for Israel’s Independence in 1948 – whose names and countries of origin have been memorialized in stone),
- planted trees in a JNF forest in memory of loved ones
- traveled to the Tank Museum at Latrun near Jerusalem where the names of hundreds of young Israelis who died in tank battles are forever memorialized
- prayed on Masada in its ancient synagogue (in Southern Israel); and
- traveled to Independence Hall (where the State of Israel was declared by David Ben Gurion), the Palmach Museum in Tel Aviv, and a secret Haganah bullet factory built during the War of Independence under a laundromat across for as British guard post in the town of Rehovot.
More than anything the Federation has done over the past decade, it has been Israel Missions such as these that have bound together the diverse Jewish communities of Pike, Wayne, Monroe and Lackawanna counties that comprise the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Am Yisroel Chai.