Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ just returned from a historic endeavor – taking 475 people from across the community on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel. For many of the participants this was their first trip to Israel, while others had been numerous times, but for all, it was an eye-opening experience connecting with the people and places in Israel that are impacted by the dollars raised through the Annual Campaign.
By Marsha Fiske, West Orange
When my husband and I were first approached about Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s commUNITY Mission to Israel, I asked myself: Do I really want to go to Israel again? There are so many places I’ve never been to that I have always wanted to see. I’ve been to Israel on five different missions, including my last mission in 1987 when I took seven families to for our children’s bar and bat mitzvahs on Masada. That was 31 years ago! Has it really been that long?
But we thought this could be something we may not want to miss. It would be a unique opportunity to share this mega event with many people I know, and lots of new people we’ve never met. I knew I had to be part of this… that I’d regret missing it. And Omg was I right. This was a trip of a lifetime!
The excitement that went through our community from our first bus meeting to the final pep rally before we left was exhilarating. I knew we made the right choice.
Landing in Israel, with the Israeli flag flying, confirmed my decision.
I had chills. The kind of emotion every Jew feels when they get off the plane in Israel. I was thrilled to be back in my Jewish Homeland. Being there with 470+ Jews from my community was over the top! Right from the very first night, as we paraded to the Tel Aviv Port carrying candles and Israeli flags, the bond was made. It was clear that we were in for quite an adventure together.
We learned so much – the history, the politics, the reality of what it’s like to live in Israel. So many things have changed since I was there last, yet the emotion was something so familiar.
The event on our last night was one I will never forget. It truly made me so proud of our Federation and our community.
Two lone Israeli soldiers, one from the Ukraine, the other from Belarus, had made aliyah to join the Israeli army. They each told their story. Where they came from, why they decided to leave their country, and what it was like it live in Israel. We asked when they last saw their parents. It had been several years for both.
To everyone’s surprise, Federation flew in both soldiers’ parents to reunite with their children! There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. What an amazing way to thank these soldiers for fighting to protect Israel!
Going on this mission to Israel again was a dream come true. I felt hope, unity, and pride with Israel and my own community... a sense of belonging to something much bigger than I imagined.
Every trip to Israel is special, each time you walk away with something different.
If you have been, go again.
If you have never been, GO....it’s an experience of a lifetime.