On the road in Israel

In 2020, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven invested in a strategic study to determine communal priorities. Israel fell on the bottom of the list. In order to reconnect and showcase the support New Haven provides Israel, a Connecticut community trip was planned in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

The 2023 Israel Adventure, co-chaired locally by Lauren and David Hass, along with Yitz and Juanita Moss from Hartford, brought together 152 people — families, individuals, couples, first-timers and veteran travelers — for an exploration of the Jewish state. Twenty people then participated on an extension to experience Jewish Morocco.

The unique trip was designed to offer participants the opportunity to select from four diverse tracks: Must See, Geopolitics and Coexistence, Food, Wine, Art, and Culture, and Technology and Innovation. Daily itineraries were created according to one’s personal interests. In addition to sightseeing, there were daily presentations from top political advisors, educators, and leaders. Each day, participants learned a new Hebrew word and were treated to a special taste of Israel.

The festive opening event was held at Jerusalem’s magnificent Olmaya Gardens and, in addition to trip participants, was attended by local dignitaries, lone soldiers, new olim, and former emissaries and residents of Connecticut. It was so great to reconnect with Eliraz Shifman Berman, a past employee of the Jewish Federation and her husband, and Nadav!

The welcome program also included video greetings from Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, and former Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh who provided a framework of the country’s current situation. 

The list of events and activities packed into this once-in-a-lifetime trip could run volumes. But here are just a few of the trip’s highlights:

—Professor Reuven Y. Hazan, Chair in Israeli Democracy & Politics at Hebrew University, officially kicked off the adventure with a talk about the structure of the Israeli political system.

—The entire group welcomed Shabbat together with a festive dinner. The popular Kippalive acapella group ushered in Shabbat with music and spirit at the Kotel… and then returned at the close of Shabbat to lead the Havdalah service.

—A silent disco in the Mamilla Mall was just one of the special evening activities. Others includes guided tunnel tours and a late night tour of the market.

—What’s a trip to Israel without a stop at Connecticut’s sister region, Afula/Gilboa. The group gathered at the Mishkan Museum of Art in Ein Harod and, after remarks from Evan Wyner, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven’s Chair for the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC) of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether (P2G) program, set off to visit different local agencies.

—LTC (Res) Jonathan Conricus, a former International spokesperson for the IDF, gave visitors a strategic security briefing focusing on Israel’s borders, and relayed to them his experience encountering anti-Israeli bias in the international media.

—The entire group met up for a festive dinner party in the old courtyard at Ahuzat Dubrovnik,’ the Dubrovnik Estates. On display were 75 years of Israeli achievements that dazzle the senses — Israeli wine, crafts, soaps, fruits, and other local products.

—While many of the participants headed south to Masada and the Dead Sea, others were inspired to attend a talk by Gilad Carni, a prominent player in the Israel hi-tech scene and a successful entrepreneur.

—As the tour came to a close, participants were treated to a festive mega event celebrating Israel @75 which took place at Yordei Hasira at the Tel Aviv port.

—The final morning program brought all of the impact stories and messages together with a panel presentation facilitated by Becki Caspi, Senior Vice President of JFNA and personal testimony from The Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center (NATAL), American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and Jewish Agency for Israel.

—As the tour wrapped up, many chose to visit various Tel Aviv museums — such as the Yitzhak Rabin Center and the Ya’acov Agam Museum. Others couldn’t pass up one last meal at Levinsky Market. Still other lived out their fantasy by being a pilot for a day at the Squadron, using the most advanced F-16 simulator in Israel, with cutting-edge technology and high-definition terrain view.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to the land of Israel…and, of course, l’hitraot!

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