The Taste of Israel

It's been a fascinating and inspiring couple of days so far on the ICE (Israel Center Engagement) mission. We've already seen so much, and learned so much. But there's so much more to see and learn. You can't even begin to scratch the surface of what we do in Israel — and the challenges that Israel faces — in a short mission.

But we got a taste.

It was the stunning, sweet taste of traditional Ethiopian coffee that greeted us as we walked into the Ramat Eliyahu matnas (community center) in Rishon LeZion. The center was built with our support, and our connection there is decades strong. With Dov Tzur, the mayor, we celebrated the life achievements of Director Peretz Hajaj, and met with the amazing cultural blend of activists and volunteers in our partner Yahel and Atzmaut programs. It was the taste of community and partnership.

It was the sweet taste of an oneg that ended Shabbat and led into a beautiful Havdala, followed by the tunes of the qanun, a traditional zither. You can hear it play here (but you'll have to come on our next mission to taste the rugelach, fruits, nuts, and array of treats that we sampled). It was the taste of a shared mission, shared values, and anticipation of what more is to come.

And it was the taste of amazing Druze hospitality in the picturesque village of Hurfeish by Israel's northern border this morning. We've been partnering with the Druze community on higher education scholarships, women's employment programs, and cultural activities. The affection and warmth of the residents, as they welcomed us into their homes and fed us, reflected the deep ties we've created. It was a taste of home-made lentils, salads, and pita. Druze women with their own lace-making enterprise, generating income and learning self-confidence and pride. It was a great taste.

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