Mission returns from Israel with new appreciation for the work of Federation and partners

by | May 18, 2023 | Trending News

A small but mighty group of Federation donors participated in the 2023 UJFT Community Mission to Israel, February 28 through March 9.  During the week-long journey, they wandered through history, culture, and time. . .  soaking in all there was to see, hear, taste, feel, and do.

This is the third and final installment of the story of their trip. 


Rise and Shine on Day six of our mission – Tuesday Morning. (Each day already feels like six!) Time to grab breakfast and check out of the hotel. We are heading to Tel Aviv!

Arriving a little early for our reservation at the Palmach Museum, the group had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the archives, which sit behind the museum, in a separate, but adjacent building. The archivist explained how the albums (created by Palmachniks over the years) were catalogued and displayed – by unit, by location, by area of operation, etc. We had the chance to look through some of the albums and see the very young men and women who literally fought, died, and lived for the founding of the State of Israel. Throughout the museum (housed on the campus of Tel Aviv University), we caught glances of some very famous faces, including a very young, very handsome Yitzhak Rabin.

The museum is a memorial to the Palmach soldiers – mostly young men and women – who gave their lives so that we (the Jewish People) would never again find ourselves stateless or vulnerable to forces seeking our destruction. Their names are inscribed in stone in the first room of the tour. And we see them again as we exit. The State of Israel, the story goes, was delivered to the Jewish People on a Silver Platter (referring to the poem by Natan Alterman), and the young men and women of the Palmach (and those serving in other units which would eventually coalesce to become the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were that Silver Platter.

From the Palmach Museum we drove south to Shuk Ha-Carmel (Carmel Market) for lunch, browsing, and last-minute shopping in the Nachalat Binyamin artists’ fair. The artists’ fair at Nachalat Binyamin pedestrian mall is the largest and oldest of its kind in Israel and is among the most beautiful and appreciated in the world. The fair started in 1988 and operates on Tuesdays and Fridays only, throughout the year.

After a festive dinner at 2-C restaurant on the 49th floor of the Azrieli Center (the highest restaurant in Tel Aviv), we found ourselves once more completely exhausted and ready to rest and start our final day tomorrow with fresh eyes and full hearts.



I can’t believe it’s our last day in Israel!” But what a day it promises to be. After breakfast in the beautiful David Intercontinental Breakfast Room, we hopped on the bus for a very unique and fascinating stop at the PhotoHouse in the very heart of Tel Aviv. The world renowned PhotoHouse (also known as Pri-Or), is one of Israel’s most valuable and monumental private archives of historical photographs. From 1936 until today, it has been family owned and operated for three generations. We were very graciously met by third generation owner Ben Peter (grandson of the founder), who talked about his family legacy and the challenges presented to small business owners in Israel. We enjoyed browsing the prints lining the walls of the shop – some very famous and well-known. And we enjoyed learning from Peter about his parents and grandparents, but also about the new ideas he has for taking the classic black and white prints and displaying them in a modern, new way.

The Photohouse is considered to be a landmark for both Israelis and visitors from around the world. Having won numerous awards and exhibited throughout Europe and the United States (including the exhibit on display at the Sandler Family Campus), the PhotoHouse continues to preserve and curate more than one million negatives, all taken by photographer and founder, Rudi Weissenstein.

From the soft-spoken stylings of Peter, we headed to our next visit at ANU – the Museum of the Jewish People, where we were met by the fiery passion of Avraham Infeld (who might be considered the “coiner” of the phrase Jewish Peoplehood). So, what better place to meet with Infeld than in “our” Museum. Departing from his traditional message, Infeld talked about the “elephant in the country…” the current political divisiveness and protests taking place around the country as a result. And he expressed his concern about the loss of unity in Israeli society and the hope that a compromise solution can be found which will allow Israelis (and, by extension, Jews around the world) to remain united behind a democratic Israel. The protests that we witnessed throughout the mission intensified significantly in the days and weeks following our departure. And after listening to Infeld and others, we were not terribly surprised to see that.

After hearing from Infeld, the group toured the museum, and what a museum it is! Absolutely magnificent in telling the story of the Jewish People – historic and contemporary. From Jewish music to Jewish art to Jewish poetry, writing, acting, and political leadership. Through interactive, multimedia exhibits, the museum tells the story of all Jews… Jews from Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Americas, and truly everywhere on earth. We could have spent hours and hours moving through the various exhibit halls. Each one brought us to new ways of thinking about our place in the world.

Heading south from the museum, we got off the bus near Dizengoff Street (home of the currently closed-for-renovation Independence Hall, and one of the most beautiful streets in Tel Aviv). Zalman led the group through the area (including Bialik Square and Rothschild Blvd.), pointing out the buildings’ unique architecture. This area is known as “The White City” for its number and density of Bauhaus buildings. Bauhaus is a style of architecture that came out of Germany in the 1930s. Much of today’s modern design is derived from the Bauhaus. There are around 4,000 Bauhaus or International-style buildings in Tel Aviv. Some of these buildings also feature elements that are typical of Modernism, but are defined separately, as they follow more rigorous rules of volume expression, visual balance, and non-ornamentation. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, it was a real pleasure to learn about and experience the White City.

As the sun moved across the sky, we all knew that our time in Israel would soon be coming to an end. So, we were determined to enjoy the few hours we had left, and those included a wonderful farewell dinner at the studio of our friend, Israeli artist, Shony Rivnay. When Shony visited Tidewater last fall, we asked if we could visit him when our mission was in Tel Aviv. Not only did he encourage our visit, but he also offered to host our dinner and provided the wine from his very own private collection. It was fascinating to see the artist’s studio and begin to understand his process and where he develops his ideas as well as the space he needs to create. Joined by Aya Sever, one of our amazing Tidewater Shinshin (and her mom), the dinner was festive, lively, and delicious – this despite the long days spent learning and soaking up the land and feeling of being in Israel.

As the sun began to set (literally and figuratively) on our trip, we made our way back to Ben Gurion airport – surprised to realize that we’d been in Israel for a week – and then onward back home.

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In case you missed the first two installments of the 2023 UJFT Community Mission to Israel, go to JewishNewsVa.org and search Community Mission.  

Amy Zelenka