Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Today will be my last post as we wrap up the trip. We have a full schedule of places to see and activities to do before we board the flight early Friday morning.

Yesterday we toured the ancient port of Jaffa, which is on the shores of the Mediterranean. Jaffa is home to beautiful art galleries, which add to the charm of the city. Jaffa borders Tel Aviv, so when standing at the shore of the sea, you can see the modern, majestic skyline of Tel Aviv up the coast, which stands in contrast to the ancient port of Jaffa. The old and the new side by side—this is one of the most exciting and impressive aspects of Israel.

In the afternoon we went to Independence Hall, the place where Israel was declared a State in 1948.   What a story! Imagine, we were in the basement where the assembly took place and we even listened to a recording of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, which was sung that day in 1948 in the very same place where we were standing. For me, that recitation of Hatikvah is the most emotional, and others felt that way too.

Tel Aviv is as modern as any large American city, and some teens commented how familiar it felt, like Boston or New York. Some teens also said that Tel Aviv doesn’t feel like what they thought Israel would feel like, because it is so modern, complete with high rise buildings, lots of traffic, modern stores, etc. There is something for everyone in Tel Aviv, including cultural events, museums, the most beautiful beach and more. Compared to Jerusalem and ancient sites in the North, Masada, and other places we visited, it is true that Tel Aviv is relatively new. This is part of the miracle of Israel. Israel truly is the shining jewel of the Middle East.

Last night was our final workshop with Stand With Us, one of the most well-known Israel advocacy organizations. Teens got a lot from the three workshops, which sparked their interest in Israel activism. Teens have come to love Israel, and when you love something you are driven to defend it when attacked. One of the main messages of Stand With Us is to empower and encourage teens to educate people about Israel by telling their stories of what they saw, who they met, etc. Teens are important to the Israel activism movement, and Y2I teens have the tools and knowledge to be excellent ambassadors and activists for Israel. Many are taking this role seriously, offering to volunteer to speak in our community about Israel and to help recruit for 2016 Y2I. In the coming weeks teens will be invited to participate in upcoming free Israel advocacy training workshops. Please encourage your children to attend.

After the workshop, all, American and Israeli teens, met for small group discussions about the power of the mifgash and to discuss what they learned from and about each other. What I heard was amazing, moving and impressive, proof-positive that the mifgash works. Meeting teens their own age provided the perfect opportunity to learn what life is like for Israeli and American teens in an authentic way. This mifgash was a success, making bonds between Americans and Israelis stronger and helping teens to understand how we are part of the same Family, one that is responsible for one another.

This evening we will say l’hitraot. “until we see each other again”, at a farewell dinner hosted by Israeli families of teens in our mifgash. It’s going to be special for our teens to meet the families of their new Israeli friends. I anticipate it will be an emotional farewell since many teens got close to each other. Some of the Israeli teens might be going to the States in October as part of their ambassador program, and we will ask for host families for a few days. It will be our turn to return the hospitality that has been so graciously bestowed upon us.

Today is Israeli Innovation Day beginning with a visit to Madatech, a science museum, and to a successful innovative company. We will visit a company that specializes in water reclamation, which is critical to meeting Israel’s water needs. Israel exports its technology to other countries that have similar critical water needs. As you know, water is a precious commodity, and even more so in desert countries, such as Israel. Israel exports its water technology, and California was the fortunate, recent recipient of Israel’s water technology to help California deal with its severe drought.

There is a lot to be proud of where Israeli technology is concerned. It was interesting to hear from Avi, one of the Israeli fathers of a teen in the mifgash. He works for Johnson and Johnson, and he is an engineer on one of its medical design teams. His invention of a heart catheter, one-tenth the thickness of a strand of hair, is helping to save lives in people all over the world, who would otherwise die from heart catheterization. When we marveled at his work, he was quite modest, saying “This is what Israel does. We see a problem and we work to solve it.” Avi said this heart catheterization technology is ten years ahead of any heart catheterization technology anyplace in the world. This is something Israel is very proud of.

We will wrap up our stay in Israel with an intense and emotional visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust, followed by a visit to the Herzl Museum to learn about Zionism, ending our time in Israel with a visit to Mt. Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery for her leaders and soldiers. Everyone buried in Mt. Herzl, from prime ministers to soldiers, who died in battle, has dedicated his or her life to the welfare of Israel and of the Jewish People. Mt. Herzl is an extraordinary place.

It is beyond amazing to think what Israel has accomplished in less than seven decades as a country. Not to mention what our Family has contributed to humanity for thousands of years, including contributions to all fields of human endeavor that make life better for others. This is Israel’s story, and Israel’s story is the perfect example of our mission as a People—to be a light unto the nations.

Israel is a miracle in every sense of the word, and your kids saw firsthand miracles that make this place unlike any other place on earth. Y2I is a taste of Israel, and teens have been inspired to return to see and to experience so much more that Israel has to offer. Teens, who have been to Israel, told me that our 2015 Y2I experience is unlike any Israel experience they have had. The trip is a success, and teens are already wishing to return again.

It has been a privilege and joy for this wonderful staff of 2015 Y2I counselors and for me to accompany your children on this life-changing adventure. Your kids have been a pleasure to be with! We look forward to seeing all of you at our 2015 Y2I Welcome Home event on Sunday, August 30, 2 p.m. at Temple Sinai. Please don’t miss it! You will have an opportunity to hear from some teens directly about the impact of 2015 Y2I on them. Teens are already looking forward to the event, knowing how special it will be to be together again.

With love from all of us in Israel,

Debbie Coltin