Freestyle mission to Israel in the works for older adults

By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Community Development and Operations

A few months after moving to Allentown in 2019, Phil and Ruth Michel were inspired by their first JCC film event and were already off to Israel.

It was the first trip there for the semi-retiree, and it “blew all our expectations away,” Phil said.

While he enjoyed the recreational sites, and ate so much good food, he knew there was lots more to see and do.

“We really didn’t get that much into the cultural and the historical and none of the religious aspects,” Phil said. “That’s what we want to do this time.”

Upon returning from his visit, Phil began working with Carol Wilson from Jewish Family Service and Jeri Zimmerman from the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley to plan a trip specifically geared toward older adults. 

The trip, originally planned for spring of 2021, was to have a more relaxed feel, with later start times, flexible schedules and full accommodations. 

The trip never got off the ground, of course, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but now those restrictions are finally loosening and plans are again in the works for a spring 2022 sojourn.

A core group has already begun meeting, and the plan is to add on a few more travelers before the trip caps at 20.
In the year preceding the trip, the travelers will not only have the opportunity to shape their own itinerary, but will meet regularly to learn basic Hebrew and Israeli culture, as well as form early bonds. 

“There’s going to be an opportunity to make some lifelong friends with this kind of a trip,” Phil said.

Are you interested in participating in a freestyle mission to Israel for older adults? Learn more at a parlor meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 26, at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. To register, contact Carol Wilson at Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley at 610-351-9956 or