Not a bad way to celebrate.
From June 19 to 28, Jewish Pittsburghers will fan out across the country, visiting all kinds of sites, including Pittsburgh’s Partnership 2gether communities of Karmiel and Misgav — a traditional component of any federation mission.
But the most important aspects of this mission, we think, are the so-called “track options” being offered. These options are a way to tailor the trip to one’s own interests.
Travelers can engage in study programs at the Pardes Institute or with former Agency for Jewish Learning Community Scholar Rabbi Danny Schiff; adventure lovers can go ATV riding in the Judean Hills or cycle the P2K Bike Trail in Karmiel-Misgav; archeology enthusiasts can explore digs on the Mount of Olives; history buffs can see the Burma Road, the Old City of Jerusalem and museums too numerous to count.
Those with culinary tastes can follow a chef on a tour of the Machne Yehuda Market or take a cooking workshop in the Galilee; the political observers can meet Knesset members and the socially conscious can visit Israel’s National Food Bank or the Ethiopian National Project.
Why are these the most important aspects of the mission? Because Jews are not a one-size-fits-all people, just like Israel is not a one-size-fits-all country. It’s not enough these days to just board mission participants on buses and send them to previously designated sites. Pittsburgh Jews bring their own individual backgrounds on this trip, and they should be free to engage Israel through experiences that are meaningful to them.
That is how to build a personal relationship with the Jewish state that will last for years and maybe, just maybe, will transfer a love for the country to one’s children.
Of course, there are experiences in Israel all Jews ought to have. How can one visit the country without seeing the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and Masada. Even if one isn’t religious, they’re spiritually touching places that have something to teach people of all backgrounds and persuasions.
But the federation got it right when it offered a mission that participants can craft to suit their own interests. The Chronicle has two correspondents in Israel on the Mega Mission, and we look forward to bringing you their reports. But even more so, we anticipate interviewing the many couples, families and singles on this trip when they return home, telling their own uniquely personal stories of how they experienced Israel. You may find their stories inspiring enough to experience Israel for yourself if you never have. Or maybe you’ll find their accounts as enriching as they did.
Either way, keep reading. Their stories will be worth the time.