By: Denise Levine
I’ve been dreaming about going to Israel for as long as I have been active in synagogue/sisterhood life. My daughter went on her first trip to Israel as a junior in high school where she participated in NFTY’s Eisendrath International Exchange. While she was there, they offered a parents’ pilgrimage but having a younger child a month away from Bar Mitzvah kept me home while my husband attended. My son went on his first trip to Israel with his URJ Crane Lake Camp friends on the summer NFTY in Israel trip. So, I’m the only one in my family of four that has never been to Israel. I keep trying but the stars just don’t seem to align. I can’t even explain why I feel this incredibly powerful urge to go. Everyone says that it transforms you. Maybe I need some transforming.
Women’s Journey to Israel – WRJ 2017 is not your typical Israel trip; this trip is going to be very different. It’s designed both for first-time visitors as well as those who have been to Israel before. For example, the itinerary includes going to Masada and the Dead Sea on Shabbat. If you have already visited Masada and prefer to experience something new this time, you can spend your Shabbat going to the Christian quarter or just relaxing at your hotel.
Personally, I’m incredibly excited about going to the mystical synagogues of Tzfat. For once, I can bring candles home for someone instead of the other way around. I also hear the shopping in Tzfat is incredible. But if Tzfat isn’t for you, you can choose to visit the Adir Dairy Farm and their sister company the Adir Winery and have wine and cheese instead.
What makes this trip so special and exciting for me is that while it includes many of the things that you would typically see on other Israel trips, it will also weave in speakers and sights that are of particular interest to women. Most especially, reform Jewish women.
I spend an enormous amount of my waking hours volunteering for WRJ. I go to sisterhoods and talk about who the YES Fund supports. I talk about our connection to our Israeli sisterhoods. But right now, they are just words and not yet something tangible to me. I want to experience them. I want to meet the families in the mother-daughter Bat Mitzvah program; I want to talk to the women in the Israeli sisterhoods. I want to experience Shabbat in Israel.
On this trip, we will meet with Anat Hoffman who will bring us up to date on the latest in the fight for gender equality in Israel. We will also have the opportunity to sit down with female Rabbis from Reform Congregations and women from WRJ-Israel. And for me, the opportunity to experience Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel with Women of the Wall is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The optional trip extension will give us a chance to go to Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-Jewish community and YES Fund grantee, where we will explore creative Jewish approaches to community life and the environment. We will also be there for Shavuot and we will have the opportunity to participate in the harvest celebrations followed by a festive meal and study.
These are experiences you will never have on any other trip to Israel. These will be those transformative moments. And experiencing it with my WRJ sisters…well that’s just the cherry on top of the cake.
So come with us…especially if you’ve never been. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Denise Levine is currently the President of WRJ Northeast District and a proud member of the WRJ Board of Directors. She is a member of North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, NY.