Israel@60 Mission: Yom Rishon: The First Day

They must time airline arrivals into Ben-Gurion for near sunset... That's when the whole country turned into gold and that was the welcoming color scheme awaiting us as we taxied into the exquisite new airport. It had been the usual insanely long flight, complete with an off-key chorus of screaming toddlers. But spirits were high among the members of the federation's Israel@60 mission, who flew in together for this momentous trip. We bussed from the airport to Jerusalem along that main highway. Our madrich (guide) Uval, gave us a very informative history of that road, especially as it winds its way through Shaar HaGay, where so much history was made in 1948. He pointed out that many of Israel's dead from the War of Independence were also Holocaust survivors, who made it out of Hitler's madhouse only to fall in the foothills of Jersualem. Because today is Yom HaShoah, it made the journey all the more poingnant. We meandered slowly through narrow Jerusalem streets clogged with traffic. It was past sundown so Holocaust remembrance day had ended, but we saw many cars bedecked with Israeli flags. Once at our hotel, after freshening up, we gathered for a sumptuous Israeli buffet dinner, which tasted especially good after nearly 24 hours of airline food. The joyous shmoozing could have gone on and on, but finally Israel Center director Neal Levy called us to order. There we were -- 100 strong -- finally in Israel after a year of planning. Neal thanked the many lay and professional staff who put the trip together. Mission co-chair introduced incoming NorCal Israeli consul general Avika Tur (an olim from the U.S.). Then the mission's other co-chair, Bobby Lent, led us in the shechiyanu before introducing keynote speaker, Rabbi Daniel Gordis. It would be nice to say Gordis served up a rousing speech. Rather, in his brilliantly delivered remarks, he told us we "are coming to a very sober country... Israelis don't talk about peace anymore; they talk about holding on." But he also noted the power of this week, with its important holidays --Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut -- and how we need Israel because "Israel gives the Jewish people the possibility of a future." Though he lamented that the world seems to have "changed its mind" about the creation of the Jewish State, he also mused: "Who could have guessed in 1946 that Jerusalem would have too many Jews." Enough to get us stuck in traffic earlier. It was a beautiful speech and a great way to get this mission underway. But now -- and so desperately needed -- comes sleep.
Categories: Israel


May 02, 2008


The Federation