Jewish National Fund-USA is organizing one of its largest and most important missions to Israel in its history to celebrate the jubilee of Jerusalem’s reunification. The 50th Anniversary of Jerusalem’s Reunification Multi-Missions Trip led by the Boston-based entrepreneur Michael Blank comprises four delegations that will converge on Ammunition Hill for a Jerusalem Day Commemoration Ceremony on May 24.
Blank is eagerly looking forward to the visit, which will take place between May 21 and 30. “The heart and soul of the Jewish people, Jerusalem is our focus as we simultaneously bring four separate missions to Israel,” Blank says. “As overall Mission Chair for hundreds of participants, I am confident a transformative, exciting, and powerful experience awaits our four groups. We’ve structured each track to give unique perspectives of the land and people of Israel, highlighting the phenomenal national development and amazing diversity that exists today.”
The four tracks include:
1. President’s Society for major donors to JNF-USA: This group consists of people who generously give financial support to JNF, including many important lay leaders within the organization. They will enjoy an in-depth view of JNF’s projects around the country
2. Young Leadership: For those 25-40 years old, this group will participate in activities that include jeep rides through craters, yoga classes, meeting a cross section of people, exploring the beaches, markets and sites throughout the country.
3. Positively Israel, Interfaith: Geared toward non-Jewish participants who wish to experience the holy land in a meaningful and reverent way, this track will experience the variety of traditions, faiths, and cultures that make up the amazing assortment of Israel today
4. Spirit of Israel: Jerusalem focused, this group will visit many famous sites of the city celebrating 50 years of reunification, as well as extensive trips in the north and south of Israel.
“As an entire group, we will experience Shabbat dinner in Israel together, along with a collective commemoration at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem including dignitaries, IDF soldiers, and other special guests,” says Blank. “After all the positive and amazing strides to date, we still witness tiny Israel challenged constantly in the news. I believe it is important to experience Israel firsthand, this remarkable start-up nation, in all its vibrancy. And honestly, no one does Israel quite like JNF. After all, since 1901 and Theodor Herzl, we’ve been there every step of the way.”
“Highlights include an exclusive Commemoration Ceremony at Ammunition Hill, site of the pivotal battle that led to Jerusalem’s reunification, with top Israeli dignitaries, IDF soldiers, and other special guests,” it says.
Bruce K. Gould, a longtime JNF leader and benefactor who is assistant vice president of Campaign/Major Gifts Chairman, says he feels a special connection to Ammunition Hill.
“The Jerusalem Day celebration will be the highlight of the trip. I choose Ammunition Hill to underwrite one of JNF signature action plans, the preservation of Israeli Historic sites, because of the significance of the battle that took place at this site,” Gould says. “I think Ammunition Hill encompasses everything that the Jewish people have fought so hard to achieve. For 2,000 years we have struggled to have one united capital of the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people. The deadly battle at Ammunition Hill was the turning point which allowed the IDF to encircle the Old City and east Jerusalem to unite a divided city into one.”
Asked what he is most looking forward to during the visit which will take participants to key sites across Israel, Gould says he always gets a thrill out of seeing people’s faces as they encounter the magnitude of the Start-Up Nation and the integral role the JNF is playing in its growth.
“As a JNF leader, every time I bring a mission to Israel, especially Americans who have never been to our homeland, I am in awe at how each person reacts to this special place,” he says. “Taking them to Ammunition Hill and educating them on the importance and significance of its history, traveling south to Halutza to witness 21st Century pioneers fulfilling David Ben-Gurion's dream of making the Negev bloom, and visiting the city of Beersheba, now the fastest growing city in Israel and soon to be capital of Israel’s cyber technology hub.”
Sheryl Buchholtz, who hails from Brooklyn, New York, is co-leading the Interfaith track.
“The goal of our Interfaith group and mission is to have participants of different faiths, backgrounds, ages and beliefs share in the history, the beauty and the Positively Israel experience,” Buchholtz says. “To bring a group of people together to see, hear, learn, taste, experience and share in the commonalities of the many people living in Israel. The personal goal is to highlight the importance of education, conversation and discussions about shared humanity and values and desires for peace and prosperity for all, no matter where one lives. Israel is a wonderful example of that dream and reality.”
Buchholtz says that they have planned “a very meaningful, educational and exciting trip for all participants.”
“Significantly our itinerary will include visits to important historical and modern world places that everyone needs to visit to better understand the complexity of the greater world we currently live in,” she says. “Taking a humanistic approach to share many of the important Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites, our travel companions will get to experience and learn about all faiths that make up the composition of Israeli society in addition to visiting JNF projects that benefit many.”
Starting with visits to Caesarea, the Bahai Gardens and Acre, Buchholtz says, her delegation will go on to the Western Galilee and the North on the first two days. “Along our journey in the north, we will meet with Muslim, Christian and Jewish entrepreneurs, including a visit to a kibbutz that incorporates the Ethiopian cultures and traditions. As part of the JNF partner programs, we are able to introduce extraordinary partners, their businesses and highlighting the peaceful and mutually beneficial opportunities of coexistence,” she says.
On the third and fourth days, they will visit Jerusalem “to experience first hand the spirituality of a beautiful city. Included are visits to the tunnels beneath the Western Wall, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Tours of the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City, a walk along the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”
They will then join with other delegations to attend the Jerusalem 50th Anniversary Day Celebrations at Ammunition Hill “to share in the special ceremonies and hear from Israeli dignitaries and leaders,” she says.
On the fifth and six days, using Tel Aviv as a base, participants have the options to go on different tracks, including visits to Bethlehem and Jericho or Masada and the Dead Sea. On the seventh day, they will join up to visit Halutza, the Palmachim Air Force Base and significant JNF Partner programs.
“We will participate in a graduation ceremony for Special in Uniform, a unique initiative that integrates individuals with special needs into IDF service, preparing them for valuable personal growth and life skills,” says Buchholtz. “Our trip concludes with tree planting at the JNF Ceremonial Tree-Planting Center, where Israel becomes part of a person’s DNA. After going there on several trips, one feels that they are not leaving the country but instead adding something significant and tangible and becoming part of the land of Israel.”