Israel Trip: A Look Back

I was asked to speak tonight about the trip at the Federation’s board meeting. Though I spent time considering what I would say, it didn’t quite come out how I hoped. I decided I’d give it another try here.

As I have previously mentioned, much of this trip was about making connections. Some of the connections were quite simple, a-ha moments. I knew of the Dead Sea, but reading about something like that, and actually swimming in it, are two completely different experiences. Similarly, when I was in third grade (regular school, not religious school) we did a social studies unit on kibbutzim. I recall pushing our desks together to represent the community. Certainly I knew that a kibbutz would be larger than for child-sized desks, but until I drove through kibbutzim and moshavim, I had no idea just how vast they are. I never considered that one might be on the Lebanon border and be staffed by numerous soldiers. These visits connected me with Israel, helping me to better understand why the US Jewish community actively supports it.

At the Lebanon border.
At the Lebanon border.

Much of what I have learned in the past two years about Israel, I learned from the films we have screened for the Hartford Jewish Film Festival. Our opening night film this year will be The Jewish Cardinal. It is based on the true story of a man, born Jewish, who converted to Christianity at age 14. After watching the film this fall, one aspect I did not contemplate was that there would be others like him. While listening to a speaker at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, I heard of a researcher at their archives who was born Jewish and later became a priest. This certainly isn’t a Nobel prize style discovery, but it helps me to see the bigger picture. Another film in the 2014 festival is Life in Stills. The subject of the film is the photo house opened by Rudi Weissenstein. Weissenstein was known for his photographs of the early days of Israel, including images of the signing of the Israeli declaration of independence. During my trip, I sat in the room where that happened. I know that when I watch the films again during the festival (these and many of the others that will be shown), I will have a stronger understanding of the issues presented.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.
Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.

Never before have I felt so connected to a group of people. Most of the others on the trip were strangers to me before we left West Hartford. We had such a wonderful time together and now I can truly call them my friends. Both in Israel and since we’ve been back, they have helped me learn, offered welcome advice, and even invited me to join a cycling group! These are all people I want to continue to get to know, which is a wonderful feeling.

About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.
About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.

Overall, this trip connected my past and present learning. It connected me with a country 5000 miles away, and a community in my backyard. The experience was not one I was looking for, but I am so incredibly glad I found.

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6 thoughts on “Israel Trip: A Look Back

  1. Love it! You’re a great writer. Was it an honor to be asked to speak? Sounds like it. Why didn’t it come out as you had hoped ? I’m sure it was excellent – but can’t resist sharing that whenever I speak in public I practice out loud, a million times, in front of a mirror. Do you remember Elizabeth’s wedding? It was pretty obvious, if I say so myself, that I had practiced and the other readers had not. LOVE the picture of you and your gang exfoliating. J I am wondering if you are going to buy a house today. I will wait patiently until someone lets me know that it has happened. I’m having my new book group (the group has been going for 30 years…I’m what’s new) here for dinner and discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” I’d better get to work. Lots to do before they arrive. M

  2. Jennifer, I am so proud of you! I wish I was there to hear you speak. [I am a life member of federation after serving 10 years on the board] You have found a very caring , committed ,and giving community. Marlene

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog. It was a pleasure getting to know you better tonight at dinner. Although it was last minute, sometimes the best made plans are no plans. I hope that I can be there to watch your journey.
    Lisa Fishman

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