By Laura Porter
WORCESTER – This fall, the Jewish Federation of North America is organizing the Israel Anniversary GA Mission, an eight-day cultural and historical tour that will culminate with the 2018 General Assembly. The mission draws from communities from all over the United States and Canada.
The trip, which will take place from Oct. 17 to 24, begins in Zichron Ya’akov, on Mount Carmel, and takes participants to Haifa, Jerusalem and the Gaza border. It will end with the two-day GA, held in Tel Aviv this year for the first time.
“It’s a well-curated mission; all aspects of the itinerary were chosen very carefully,” says Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, who will participate. “The goal is to give people who might not have been to Israel a chance to see the most important sites, but also to give [the trip] substance for those who have been on missions prior.”
It has been several years since a mission has run from this area, and the chance to travel with people from all over North America through JFNA means “we can make sure the community sees what goes on the ground in Israel with the donations we make to Federation from Central Mass.,” he says. “It helps tell the Federation story a little better and tells people why it’s so important to give.”
Before spending Shabbat in Jerusalem, the group will visit Haifa as well as Zichron Ya’akov, founded in 1882 by pioneers from Romania. Here, they will see: Ramat HaNadiv, the memorial gardens for Baron Edmond de Rothschild; and Beit HaGefen, an Arab-Israeli cultural center, among other sites. The Federation-sponsored restaurant, Mata’im, employs and mentors at-risk youth.
Schimmel notes that travelers from Central Mass. will also be able to take the time to visit Afula-Gilboa, the area’s sister-city in the Partnership2Gether program, where they will visit agencies supported specifically by the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.
Whether seasoned travelers or new to Israel, participants will find meaning in their visit to Jerusalem, where the group will celebrate Shabbat and “mingle among locals as they eat, shop, work, and convene,” reads the JFNA flyer for the trip. Optional side trips include a visit to Masada, a walking tour of Yemin Moshe, or a biking trip to the 9/11 Memorial. The day before the GA begins, the mission will travel to the Negev to witness the impact of Federation’s Negev Now initiative in the desert. In Sderot, participants will meet residents of Netiv HaAsara, the closest Israeli community to Gaza.
“It’s important for us to know what it’s like to live that close,” says Schimmel. “It gives a perspective that we can really only get from being on the ground and seeing the bomb shelters, the Gaza fence, and realizing that the people who live there only have 15-20 seconds to get to a shelter.”
The two-and-a-half day GA closes the mission, bringing together Jews from around the world to discuss critical political, social and cultural issues.
“Anybody who goes on a mission will tell you that it’s such a great experience; it builds your connection not only to Israel but to the Jewish people,” says Schimmel. “You come home feeling more energized, knowledgeable and, most of all, more connected.”
On June 21 at 6 p.m., there will be an informational meeting about the mission at the Federation offices, 633 Salisbury St., Worcester. Please RSVP to Lisa at 508-756-1543 or LThurlow@jfcm.org. For more details and an itinerary, visit https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-16/2/70thMission_2018_FlyerFINAL.pdf.