Travel with a purpose

By Jeri Zimmerman
Executive Director
Since travel restrictions have eased a bit, I’ve been lucky to participate in two different missions to Israel in the past few months. 
The most recent was an Atidim mission. Atidim, which means futures, is a nongovernmental organization that invests in the education, enrichment, and empowerment of people from Israel’s periphery. Through financial, academic, and social support, Atidim helps these promising students to attend college and to pursue careers in high tech, engineering, industry, defense, and public service. 
During my visit I met the remarkable scholarship recipients and also attended many high-level military and intelligence briefings, each more amazing than the one before it. We also took the opportunity to meet with our counterparts in Yoav, our Partnership2Gether community, and we were hosted by Mayor Matti Sarfati Harcavi. While there, the family of Lehigh Valley community members Lewis and Roberta Gaines met with students for whom they provide scholarships, and they dedicated an arts and garden center at the Zafit regional high school. Both of these projects help strengthen our connection with our partners in Israel and provide a Lehigh Valley presence in Yoav.
My mission culminated with the Israeli Air Force graduation, a moving and emotional experience in itself, and the Gaines family’s dedication of a beautiful youth lounge for the residents of the Ramon Airbase, even more touching (see the article to the right).
This trip came on the heels of our exciting community mission/bike tour that took place at the end of March. Both experiences reminded me of the many opportunities to visit Israel and to strengthen our ties with our Jewish homeland. Each experience is fundamentally different, but all are part of building lasting connections with the people and the land. 
While in Israel, it was gratifying to meet students Sarah Bartos and Cassidy McGoldrick, whose grandparents are from the Lehigh Valley, as the two participated in the Onward internship program. Jacob Sussman was also an Onward participant, and Jacob Dahan is in Israel as a Maccabi U.S. squash athlete competing in this summer’s Maccabiah games. Ethan Kushnick is spending the summer in Israel as a TAMID group fellow. We have a Melvin M. Goldberg Fellowship student, Yoni Perla, at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and I met with our future shlicha, Eynav Dahan (more about that at a later date). Our community also has students enrolled in many other Israel experiences at yeshivas and ulpanas as well as the Muss High School in Israel program.
In July, a group of women from our Federation are participating on a Momentum trip, and we are gearing up for a community mission in April 2023 to celebrate Israel at 75! As we celebrate Israel’s diamond anniversary, we hope you will get engaged and join us for this fun and meaningful adventure.
There are so many opportunities to spend time in Israel and each offers its own unique insights. I strongly encourage everyone to consider a visit to Israel. It is an extremely valuable community-building and educational experience that fosters Jewish continuity and promotes meaningful community engagement. Missions help us to connect with global Jewry and with one another in powerful ways.