ATLIT, ISRAEL – There was not a dry eye in the house following the screening of the 30-minute film documenting the first-ever Boston-Haifa Connection Hatikvah Soldiers Mission. These 12 IDF officers who were born and raised in Haifa traveled to Boston in April 2010 to participate in Yom HaShoah memorial ceremonies and to share their stories with members of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in the area.
The pride the officers felt when they raised the Israeli flag at the Holocaust Memorial was matched by the pride of every single Boston-Haifa Connection committee member in attendance, as we watched these Jewish soldiers whose job it is to defend the Jewish state and with it, the entire Jewish people, represent Israel so eloquently.
The Hatikvah Mission, which will bring its second delegation to Boston from April 28th to May 5th is the essence of the Boston-Haifa Connection, truly creating and maintaining close bonds between people on both sides of the partnership. Two of the officers from last year’s mission were on hand for the screening, and it’s clear their experience has stayed with them.
Ro’i, one of the soldiers in attendence shared the following after seeing the film: “The Boston community was really special. We were walking around Boston and we felt like it was the Haifa of the States – the same atmosphere, it was very similar. We met a lot of great people that we’re still in contact, who come visit us. The connection between the people, the young teenagers we’re still in contact, all the people who were responsible for us we’re still in contact with.”
While it was clear the mission was a success at the time, it’s the lasting impression it’s made on its participants that’s just as valuable. For many Israelis, it’s difficult to understand how American Jews can feel so strongly about Israel when it’s thousands of miles away. But through programs such as Hatikvah Mission, Taglit-Birthright, MASA and others that bring Israelis and Americans together to really sit and talk with one another, the bonds of Jewish peoplehood are strengthened. It might sound like just flowery language or a popular catch-phrase, but for those of us who are blessed to have family and close friends who are Israeli, it’s the truth. We can read all we want in the news, we can buy Ahava hand lotion and benefit from Israeli-made technology that we all love, but there’s nothing that can bring us together as members of the Jewish People the way these connections do.
The 2nd Hatikvah Soldiers Mission will visit Boston from April 28 through May 5, 2011 and will take part in the commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of the establishment of the Holocaust Memorial near Faneuil Hall. The Boston-Haifa Connection blog will introduce you to some of the soldiers in the coming weeks, and additional information on where and how you can come and meet them will be available at cjp.org shortly.