Photo Credit:
Participants in the Eretz Yisrael Movement July 2014 tour.

My recent trip to Israel was very special. It was a time of joy. It was a time of sorrow. It was the Jewish experience.

The day we arrived was the day the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found in a shallow grave in a field in Hebron. The entire Jewish world had held their breath during the daunting search for “our boys.” The news was crushing.


The last day of our trip included a quick stop while the tour bus unloaded us to a bomb shelter. The warning siren had gone off. The Iron Dome did its job. We returned to the bus and continued on our way. The sirens had already become a familiar sound. Israel, tired of a constant barrage of missiles aimed at its innocent civilians, had finally had enough. Operation Protective Edge had been launched.

Israel has faced many challenges in its 66 years of existence. It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening. Life goes on in Israel and we can all learn a lot from this attitude.

My family and I took the Eretz Yisrael Movement tour, and it was a truly an incredible experience. The tour leaders were amazing. They are knowledgeable in history, geography, current events and Tanach. They are very special people, dedicated Zionists, and a source of inspiration as well as information.

Margalit Frydman and Dani Spielman, our tour guides, always went the literal and figurative extra mile for us, every day and in every way. Margalit knew and lived near the family of one of the murdered boys, but her cheerful countenance and beautiful smile did not reflect what had to be a heavy heart. Dani, who had three sons-in-law and one son called up as reserves, didn’t miss a beat. His only (somewhat stoic) comment was that his daughter and daughters-in-law would be spending Shabbat at his house. They did not want to be alone.

Thank you, Margalit and Dani for helping, accommodating, and making sure that our time in Israel would be meaningful, safe and enjoyable.

We explored many of Israel’s natural wonders and were awed by their beauty. We traveled to religious sites and were humbled by their significance. We toured historically meaningful locations and were filled with wonder at the deeds and sacrifice of our people.

We visited museums. We had many hands-on experiences. We participated in an archeological sifting project, “worked” in a factory that packed food for the needy, distributed snacks to the IDF soldiers, created arts and crafts projects and baked pita bread.

The days were filled with pride and passion, adventure and fun.

We visited a winery, a chocolate factory and a dairy farm. We stayed overnight at Kibbutz Lavi and were shown the facility and its furniture factory. We boated on the Kinneret and canoed on the Jordan River.

The people on our tour were really very special. Despite a wide variety of observance styles, ages and backgrounds there was a beautiful and exceptional atmosphere of achdut (unity) and ahavat Yisrael (love of one’s fellow Jew) that was displayed throughout the time we were together.

There were young children, teens and several bar mitzvah boys and bat mitzvah girls who had come to Israel to mark their coming of age. There were young adults, middle-aged individuals and senior citizens. Everyone acted as a caring, extended family. It was truly heartwarming to witness.

Kol hakavod to a wonderful group. It was a real pleasure to travel with you.

I urge everyone to go to Israel. Don’t cancel your visit or tour. You won’t regret it. Show your support, add to the economy, and have a really good time!


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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.