For Carolyn Pivnick of Revere, Lappin Foundation’s Discover Israel trip to Israel was a dream come true. “I learned more history than I ever imagined, we were treated like royalty everywhere we went, each day surpassed the prior one, and I certainly want to return. I loved everything. My wish is that people stop being afraid to go, and continue to support Israel,” remarked Pivnick.
Spanning ages in our 40s to 80s, we were husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, best friends since childhood and newly made friends, first timers to Israel and repeat visitors, Jewish and Christian.
Throughout our 10 days in Israel, tears flowed, hearts swelled with Jewish pride and faces almost cracked from smiling so much. Everyone on Lappin Foundation’s 2016 Discover Israel trip for adults had an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
Our exciting first timer’s itinerary was filled with must-see sites, including Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the Old City and the Wall in Jerusalem, Mt. Masada and the Dead Sea, Mt. Bental on the Syrian border, and much more. Meeting Israelis of all faiths, including Jewish, Christian, Druze and Muslim, and hearing from an Ethiopian Jewish Israeli, who proudly exclaimed that Israel’s rescue of Ethiopian Jews was the first time black people were taken out of Africa not in chains, opened the eyes of many to Israel’s beauty, diversity and purpose.
We were in Israel during a most special time of year, commemorating Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and celebrating Yom HaAtzamaut (Independence Day) with the people of Israel. We were guests of families of Petah Tikvah, nearly a thousand people in all, who gathered for a somber and moving evening memorializing all who gave their lives defending Israel or who lost their lives in terrorist attacks. As we entered the school grounds, dozens of elementary school-aged children greeted us, proudly waving their Israeli flags and exuberantly shouting to us, “Welcome!”. They made us feel important and special, and instantly we knew these children as true heroes and ambassadors of Israel. Repeat traveler to Israel Joan Dunn of Beverly learned that “people don’t seem to live in fear. They live their lives with exuberance and don’t dwell on what can happen.”
A record-breaking heat wave of 120 degrees at 10 a.m. did not stop us from visiting Masada, though many tour groups canceled their visits. Hiking paths up the mountain were closed due to extreme heat. Under the loving care of Ron, our tour guide, everyone in our group stepped foot on top of Masada, and all of us made it to the Dead Sea. On the hottest day on record in May, we were happy and hydrated, experiencing two amazing places not only in Israel, but on the planet!
Everyone has their favorite memory of the trip, whether it was meeting brave soldiers who fought in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, seeing the desert bloom with trees and flowers, or viewing the booming skyline of Tel Aviv, a powerful testament to the innovation, creativity and determination of the Israeli people. During our visit, we wholeheartedly embraced all that Israel offers and marveled at all that Israel accomplishes.
Our trip yielded 20 enthusiastic ambassadors for Israel, who will undoubtedly testify to what they saw with their own eyes and experienced firsthand. Whether it’s one’s first time to Israel or eighteenth visit, like mine, you can only be in awe at what a beacon of light unto the nations Israel is, a bold incubator for innovation, finding and sharing solutions to some of the world’s big problems. Who would fathom that Israel, located in a desert region, where water is more precious than gold, developed technology to irrigate, desalinate and reclaim water, making it number one in the world for doing so. Not only did Israel produce a surplus of water and eliminate crippling water shortages, Israel exports this technology around the globe so other places can thrive as Israel does.
This is what gives me hope for Israel’s future. This teeny-tiny speck of earth, a mere 8,000 square miles, is full of practical, life-changing miracles. Like every other country on earth, Israel has her share of problems, but Israel pushes forward. When partners for real peace emerge and accept Israel for what she is, the sky is the limit to what Israel will do.
Deborah Coltin is the Executive Director of Lappin Foundation, whose mission is enhancing Jewish identity across generations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view pictures of 2016 Discover Israel at lappinfoundation.org.