Touring Israel-our homeland
July 26, 2019
Temple Israel's recent tour of Israel in June included 18 participants. The trip was carefully planned by Natan Brener, who defined the goal of the trip as providing a great opportunity for people to strengthen their Jewish identity and build a powerful connection to the land of Israel.
"People could understand and study in depth key aspects of Israel's modern history, its political system, and current affairs in the Middle East. Part of the goal was to give participants the tools to become active advocates for the State of Israel in the Orlando community," said Brener.
Participant Roberta Schreiber recaps the meaningful trip:
How can we distill nine days of non-stop experiences that affected us visually, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally? We learned so much from Rabbi Neely, our tour guide, and various speakers. Thank goodness for pictures to review, refresh, and reflect on our memories.
We were greeted at the airport by our tour guide, Or Ben Ami, with a hearty "Welcome home." Not to waste a minute, we were off on the bus to travel to Tiberias. Along the way we stopped at the aqueduct at Caesarea to recite the Shehecheyanu and take our first of many group pictures.
So much of what we did and saw was a juxtaposition of old and new, from baking bread over a fire among ruins to the modern skyscrapers of Tel Aviv.
We used Tiberias as our home base as we explored the north. Among the things we did were a visit to Haifa, the Baha'i Gardens, Acre's Old City, and Tzfat. Before we left, we saw the Syrian bunkers on the Golan Heights and viewed with pride the modern, fertile farms below.
We said goodbye to the Sea of Galilee and, while sad, went with anticipation to Jerusalem. This day was filled with our first view from the heights of Mount Scopus for the Shehecheyanu ceremony and the joy of the spectacular view. On to the Old City, David's Tomb and, of course, shopping. For many, a highlight was our visit to the Western Wall. We each had our opportunity for prayer and reflection, and then it was on to the amazement of the Tunnel Tour.
The next day took us on an emotional roller coaster. We started with our visit to Yad Vashem and saw and learned so much about the horror of the Holocaust. Later, we went to the other extreme as we experienced the frenzied preparation for Shabbat at the Machane Yehuda Market. What a wonderful way to welcome Shabbat with Kabbalat Shabbat at the Egalitarian Terrace Kotel. We prayed and sang and danced with people from all over.
We walked a lot, saw a lot, and had fun along the way. We shopped, planted trees, and even rode camels! Our speakers added to the knowledge we gained from our tour guide and Rabbi Neely with talks about politics and the lead-up to the Six-Day War.
No trip to Israel would be complete without going down, down, down to take a dip in the Dead Sea or climbing up, up, up, to the heights of Masada and exploring the ruins. We viewed with wonder the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum and the artifacts at the Archaeological Museum.
Exhausted and exhilarated, we said goodbye to Jaffa and left for the airport. Each traveler came home with his or her own favorite sight and memory. But one thing we felt in common: We left as 18 individuals and came home a family, wishing everyone would have the joy of visiting Israel. Next year in Jerusalem!