PDX>Israel cochairs

PHOTOS: At left: Priscilla and Tony Kostiner, front center, on  the Southern Steps celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat. Below: Kathy Davis-Weiner and Michael Weiner explore a Crusader castle.

Following are reflections from the four co-chairs of Portland's 2023 community trip to Israel.

See stories from about a dozen participants and more photos from Israel at online.anyflip.com/fgcex/tpwy.


Mission accomplished

When we began planning this trip to Israel, it was to celebrate the Jewish Federation’s 100th birthday. Covid had other ideas. Our registration fell from 400 to 200 but what a blessing in disguise: the logistics were impeccable, the excitement contagious, the wonder extraordinary.
Those 200 people, mostly first-timers, were about to experience the promised “trip of a lifetime,” and it was the implicit promise to those first-timers that excited us, because we knew the power of Israel to evoke emotion and to create wonder.  We also knew there was no way to fully describe what they were about to feel.
And so during the trip, we continually asked those who had never been to Israel what were their impressions. The unanimous, yes unanimous, responses were those of powerful astonishment.
The emotions began on Shabbat at the Southern Wall; tears of joy were actually flowing. It continued through the more lighthearted venues in Tel Aviv, where comments were made to us that they had no idea that this small country could build a 21st-century powerhouse of both tech and fun.
Every day added to their wonder with the variety of experience and concomitant emotions: the detention/absorption center brought to life the drama of lsrael’s struggle to be born. Yad Vashem both crushed their spirit and gave hope of a better tomorrow. The security briefings put today’s reality into perspective (looking into both Syria and Lebanon was particularly jarring), as did the Helicopter Memorial.
Emotions proved to be the bond that held the participants together. Comments were given, time and again, that this was the most impactful experience of their lives; and their emotions were also our emotions, which simply proves that Israel never grows old. As many times as one goes to Eretz Yisrael, it creates or reenforces an unbreakable bond with the Jewish people.
Our goal was to connect the Portland Jewish community with the State and people of Israel.  Mission accomplished.


It is not a dream

Eem tirtzu, ein zo aggadah:  If you will it, it is not a dream.
This expression, the words of Theodore Herzl, have been the cornerstone of our journey in planning Portland’s community trip to Israel.  
Our discussions about the trip began in 2016 as we looked forward to the Jewish Federation’s 100th anniversary in 2020. With 400 people ready to go in March of that year, Covid overtook us, and the trip was postponed for three years until 2023 – time to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary of statehood. Never did we, nor our co-chairs, Michael Weiner and Kathy Davis-Weiner, think of giving up.
For us, having our daughter and her family with us, as well as good Portland friends plus special best friends from Connecticut, added to the pleasure of the trip. It was rewarding to meet so many others whom we did not know or did not know well. Can you imagine, 65% of our travelers were first-timers. Seeing and hearing their reactions every day was special!  
We were so fortunate to have our outstanding Federation professionals, the excellent Israeli guides, bus drivers, youth counselors and Kenes personnel with us, seeing to our every need. The use of What’sApp as a means of communicating with the terrific members of Bus 5 added to the fun.  
Day after day, the group was delighted and moved by what they experienced. Even we, who have been to Israel so many times, found ourselves excited by new sites, particularly in archeology.
For us, the Kabbalat Shabbat service that we held on the Southern Steps to the Temple Mount was the most moving moment. The location and spirit of the moment captured everything this trip was all about.
Bottom Line: Would we do it again? Absolutely! When? As soon as we can! Will that happen?
Eem tirztu, ein zo aggadah:  If you will it, it is not a dream!



Add Comment