I have just returned from Israel. And while I have been blessed to travel to Israel many times, almost on an annual basis, sometimes even more frequently, this trip had a special purpose: we sampled wineries, ate gourmet food, luxuriated in the country’s finest spas, and stayed in the newest of hotels. And, of course, we also spent Shabbat at some special synagogues that provide a unique spiritual experience for those who are so inclined.
Some looked askance when I showed them our itinerary and invited them to join us. “How can you go to Israel that way? You have to go to Yad Vashem and what about the absorption centers?” The list went on. Even the travel agents were skeptical and kept making irrelevant suggestions. (Israel Celebration Tours and my friend Rabbi Lee Diamond got it and helped with the logistics.) But I had another goal in mind. I wanted to show people another side of Israel, the side that few people see when traveling on missions. And just as we frequently do at JOI, I wanted to demonstrate to those who organize such trips that a paradigm shift is necessary if you want to attract the unengaged, as well as maintain the interest of those who are already engaged.
The trip brought the members of the group closer together. At the same time, the group bonded more closely with Israel, without the “in your face” manipulated heartstrings approach. Israel can speak for itself if we let her. And that is just what we did.
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