29 March 2019
Shalom! I am writing to you from Amsterdam, where the pre-trip to Federation’s Israel YOUR Way Mission is just underway. On Monday, we travel to Israel for the formal start of the Greater Washington community Mission with over 100 people.
The trip has been designed to offer a diversity of experiences, appealing to different tastes and interests. There is a track exploring politics and security; arts, food & culture; innovation & entrepreneurship; and for the intrepid explorers, an outdoor adventure & eco-action track. I encourage you to take a quick look at the broad array of experiences that we have lined up – from blindfolded tandem bike rides with Etgarim, an organization empowering people with physical disabilities through the challenges of extreme sports – to meeting the head writers of “haYehudim Baim”, the controversial Israeli TV show that gives a new spin to historical events in Jewish history – to meeting with the founder of Mobileye, Israel’s most successful start-up, developing autonomous cars – to visiting JEST, a high-tech hub/accelerator in East Jerusalem that supports entrepreneurship and innovation among the Arab community. These are just a small sampling of all the plans ahead.
As passionate as I am about the planned itinerary, what I am most focused on as I set off to Israel is the prospect of going through these experiences with this group of fellow Greater Washington community members. Throughout this trip, we will have the opportunity to learn from one another. To see Israel through one another’s eyes. To react to what we see, and delve in together into the sometimes inspiring, and sometimes disquieting, questions that we are confronted with. While I have been to Israel innumerable times, I have never seen this Israel, through this group’s perspectives. That is the beauty of Israel YOUR Way—this experience is our chance to uncover new sides of Israel and of ourselves, and to form new and deeper connections as we do this together.
Of course, this year’s mission will provide an added layer of depth. In a little over a week, on April 9, Israel will elect its 21st Knesset (Parliament). This election promises to be pivotal in a number of ways. Israelis will decide whether to stick by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history, or usher in a change in leadership from among the over 40 parties across the broad political spectrum. Through all of this, there is a vibrant debate about the country’s future across a very broad range of issues, including national security, economic policy, and the definition of a Jewish state.
There has been much said about the growing distancing between Israel and diaspora communities, and the polarization from within the North American community itself. I am excited to undergo this experience with my community, as we explore together our own and Israel’s diversity. I am inspired by the commitment of this group to come together at this pivotal time to strengthen and be strengthened by our multiplicity of experiences, and to forge ahead together into the next chapter of our collective tomorrow.