UJFT Society of Professionals embarks on Mission to Israel without the jet lag

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Trending News

In what seems to be an ever enduring global pandemic, tour guides across the world are devising creative ways for visitors to experience other countries without packing a thing. United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals (SoP) recently embarked on such a journey to explore a ‘Dreamers and Achievers’ three-part virtual mission to Israel with gracious, Zion-passionate and exceptional tour guides, Zalman Spivack and Lyana Rottstein.

With a packed itinerary, we began our interactive tour in Tel Aviv, the first modern Hebrew city, on the corner of Herzl and Rothschild Blvds—both streets named after two key founders of what was to become the Jewish state. As we meandered along the boulevard (sans FitBits®), we were shown an image of this area as the once barren sand dune it was less than 100 years ago…to a now bustling financial district that bears the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and serves as a hot bed for tech start-ups.

During our tour, we “met with” author, speaker, and top tech influencer, Inbal Arieli who spoke about the “secret sauce” that makes Israel the ‘Start Up Nation.’ We then heard from Michael Eisenberg, founding partner of Aleph, an early-stage venture capital firm which works with Israeli entrepreneurs to build global brands.
Heading out of town, we stopped at Independence Hall, where David Ben-Gurion, head of the People’s Council, Zionist, and executive of the Jewish Agency, declared the creation of the State of Israel. This was followed by a visit to the Ayalon Institute, a clandestine munitions factory, which manufactured ammunition in support of the War of Independence in 1948 (an early example of Israeli “creative, out-of-the-box thinking”).

From the Tel Aviv suburbs, the group headed north—to the Kinneret Cemetery, which overlooks the breathtaking Kinneret Lake (Sea of Galilee) and Golan Heights. Buried here are some of the great early Zionist leaders, including Rachel the poet, and Ben Tzion Yisraeli (1887–1954). Ben Tzion Yisraeli is credited with restoring high-quality date palm trees to the land of milk and honey, and essentially changing the agricultural landscape of the nation. Yisraeli risked his life to smuggle date palm seedlings and shoots back to Israel from various Arab countries, including Persia and Egypt.

Still in the north, we met a representative from BioBee, a company that supplies bee pollinators to indoor greenhouses globally.

Bright-eyed and from the comfort of our homes, our SoP contingent boarded a virtual bus south to the Negev Desert where we learned about the Revivim Kibbutz, which runs an agribusiness growing 80% of the able olives supplied throughout the country. During this presentation and the one following at Ramat HaNegev Winery, our group casually dined on the olives, dates, and Israeli wine that had been hand-delivered to our homes prior to the Mission.

Guides Zalman and Lyana provided historical perspective on how the Negev was transformed from arid wilderness to thriving agricultural oasis, beginning more than 80 years ago with the construction of a single north-to-south water pipeline dubbed the “Champagne Pipe.” The pipeline, along with early innovation by Israel’s 1930’s chief water engineer, Simcha Blass (who pioneered drip irrigation), and more recent wastewater recycling and desalination techniques, helped shaped the course of irrigation and water conservation in Israel—and across the planet through shared technology—to the present day.

As our final session wound down, many attendees reflected on the experience.

“Even though I’ve been to Israel many times, the virtual mission taught me so many new and wonderful things I hadn’t learned before,” said Miriam Brunn Ruberg.

Rachel Shames says, “The virtual mission provided a great opportunity to feel connected to Israel from afar. I especially enjoyed learning about the eco-friendly irrigation systems that are sustaining groves in the Negev, thanks to support from the IDF.”

“Since participating in the SoP Virtual Mission, I cannot stop looking at YouTube videos of Israel,” says Rabbi Arthur Ruberg. “During COVID, I may not be able to go to Israel, but I can still enjoy seeing Israel.”
Israel is young by statehood, but ancient with a millennia of history. It is a country small by landmass, but enormous with scientific advancements in agriculture, defense, and technology.

Once this pandemic ends, I will pack a bag and board a plane for an in-person tour of this awe-inspiring tiny nation. And, it will have been worth wait.

Contact Ronnie Jacobs Cohen at rcohen@ujft.org for how to get involved with UJFT’s Society of Professionals.

– Stacey Neuman