Reflection on CJF's Israel Mission 2018: By Michael Leibowitz

In October 2018, 30 Jewish leaders from the Charleston Jewish community traveled to Israel to discover the Start-Up Nation, build living bridges with the Israeli people, and go off the beaten path to learn how our dollars impact the lives of Israelis every day. A photo album of their experience is available here.

The following reflection was written by CJF Israel Mission Participant, Michael Leibowitz:

When CJF's Director of Strategic Initaitives, Rebecca Engel (disclaimer: my daughter), invited me to join the Federation mission to Israel, my answer was no.  I'd already been to Israel 7 times.  "What else is there to see?", I asked her.

Her answer made so much sense - "Seeing Israel with friends will create a brand new experience.  It will be different from every other trip."

I am flying home now after a week in Israel with about 30 fellow Charlestonians.  Some were friends, others casual acquaintances.  A few were strangers, but soon all became friends.

Rebecca was 100% correct.  We had a terrific tour guide, and an amazing itinerary that was developed by Judi, Ava, and Rebecca.  Although I had been to many of the sites before, there was a new perspective and a new, deeper appreciation.

Added to that were the speakers that joined us at many meals.  They were from a variety of aspects of Israeli life:  Jewish Agency for Israel, Women of the Wall, entrepreneurs, JNF, and others.  Their passion for this country..for this experiment...for this homeland, was indisputable.  We shared their stories, we lived their struggles, and we wanted more.

So now after 8 visits to Israel, I can't wait to return.   I am a proud American and alongside that I am a proud Jew.   Israel is more than a country.  It is the successful manifestation of thousands of years of dreams, hopes, struggles, setbacks, and ultimately amazing progress.  

There are many challenges to come, as the evolution of Israel is not a goal, but always a journey.  I am so glad to have been a small witness to that journey.