Tom Hofheimer Young Leadership Mission to Israel The journey continues

by | Aug 28, 2015 | Other News

Part two of a three-part series

Halfway through the eight day journey of the Tom Hofheimer Young Leadership Mission to Israel, the experience continues to be overwhelming, exciting and thought-provoking. The Mission participants have already visited and met with recipients of Campaign allocations and seen the impact of the UJFT firsthand, traversed startling landscapes to see the history between Israel and Syria, walked through the sacred city of Tzfat and indulged in delicious meals—and there is so much more to come.

Traveling to Jerusalem for Shabbat is an experience unlike any other. Mission participants witnessed the hustle and bustle of Machane Yehuda Market, along with the thousands of patrons preparing for Shabbat. After a unique Kabbalat Shabbat experience at the Kotel and Davidson Center, the group enjoyed Shabbat dinner with Avraham Infeld, president emeritus of Hillel International and renowned Jewish educator. The adventure continued with an exciting day at Masada, a float in the Dead Sea and a late night trip through the underground Western Wall tunnels.

Mission participants experienced an emotionally riveting morning as they toured Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, and were presented with a profoundly Jewish memorial of the Shoah. After viewing the powerful exhibits, participants ascended to Mount Herzl to visit the burial place of Israel’s founding fathers, the country’s leaders and the site of Jerusalem’s military cemetery. With many connections to the military, the visit to Har Herzl was powerful and poignant.

The journey continued with a hike through the water tunnel at the ancient City of David and a fun night out in Tel Aviv.

The final day provided the perfect conclusion of the Tom Hofheimer Mission to Israel, when participants met direct recipients of UJFT’s fundraising efforts. Mission participants were honored to meet with a young woman in her mid-20s, Sara, who made Aliyah to Israel last year. She did so under duress, and in order to escape escalating and tangible anti-Semitism in her home city of Paris, France. She told the group about her experiences with a leadership program specifically for young Jewish adults in her situation that is provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), and how she worried about the rest of her family still in Paris. Sara brought Mission participants to tears as she expressed her gratitude for the leaders who help fund JAFI programs like the one she works with, and who enabled her to make Aliyah to Israel, where she feels safe, at ease and hopeful.

Finally, Mission participants visited a recipient agency that is very special to Tidewater. The Jewish community of Tidewater has a long and loving relationship with the Matnas (community center) in Pardes Katz, which has been our Project Renewal community for more than two decades. Mission participants met with Michal Zahavi, Matas director, toured the dental clinic, the only library in Pardes Katzn that is housed inside the Matnas, visited with preschoolers and saw a performance of rock and roll favorites by the middle school’s after school performance group. Mission participants were reluctant to leave the Matnas, as they connected so deeply with the students, toddlers and staff. Many expressed a desire to visit again in the future.

Over the course of an exhausting and exhilarating week, the Mission group navigated a series of experiences that evoked emotions ranging from pride to shock to love, as they traveled through the history of the land of Israel and the Jewish people. This Mission experience was life changing, and our Tidewater community will be better for it. The 2015 Tom Hofheimer Young Leadership Mission to Israel was a definitive success.

The third part of this series will appear in the September 14 issue of Jewish News.

by Amy Weinstein