I love traveling to Israel. For me, a trip to Israel combines a healthy dose of education, visiting historic sites, learning about leading edge technology, meeting many people and having a lot of fun. Safe to say, this trip met all my demands. I can even say it exceeded my typical goals because I got the chance to go with 200 people I know and respect. There were many highlights. Spending time with other participants, friends and even my niece. Visiting institutions that my family and I support. Doing something new and finding new restaurants. Each day had several highlights embedded in it.
One singular event I feel compelled to recall because of its emotional impact was the moment of silence for Yom Hashoah (and subsequently on Yom Hazikaron).
For anyone that is in Israel during the sounding of the air raid sirens across the country for one minute in recognition of the fallen, it is one of the most incredibly moving experiences of a lifetime. To be in Israel when they observe this moment.
To watch as every person around you ceases their daily routine to stop and stand in silence to honor this moment, is so emotionally enriching. If you have never seen this happen, I invite you to Google “Israel minute of silence” and watch any myriad of videos that show cars pulling over, or just stopping in the middle of the highway, with people getting out of their cars, to respect this minute. I watch a video every year, at 11:00. This is the second time I have been able to participate myself. Amazingly rewarding.
I would like to mention the restaurant Piccolino in Jerusalem. The entrance is off Yo’el Moshe Salomon (the road leading up to Ben Yehuda) but the back of the restaurant is on Nakhman Square where nightly entertainment begins at 7:30. The food was good, there are several other restaurant options right in the square if you do not want Italian, and the music and ambience was awesome.
One highlight was not on the Federation portion of the trip. I had been waiting for this opportunity for several years and was excited I was finally able to coordinate an extension on this trip. The day after our trip was Yom Hazikaron and then Yom Haatzmaut. Belinda Morris, Jeri Breiner, and I stayed to watch Yoel Levi conduct the Haifa Symphony for a special 75th Independence Day celebration. Yoel Levy was fantastic and the concert he created was amazing. The concert was a variety of pieces (not a single concerto), and many of the songs included additional entertainment such as a choir, an opera singer, Israeli dancers, ballet dancers, fireworks and possibly Israel’s singular concert Bagpiper. Truly a fabulous way to cap our trip and celebrate Israel’s 75th.
I want to thank Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Eric Robbins for creating this extraordinary trip and opportunity. There were quite a number of options each day hiking, culinary, spiritual, touring, visiting partners and much more. There was also ample time to meet with people from our group – equally as important as visiting a site, in my opinion. I also want to thank Renee Werbin for scheduling my non-Federated time and tours, as well as Moshe Nov, one of the best guides in Israel. Finally, I want to give a shout out to those from our trip that went to demonstrate with the Israeli’s. While I didn’t attend, I do applaud your convictions.
I stand with you in spirit and look forward to seeing everyone on the next Atlanta Mission to Israel!
Michael Morris is owner and publisher of Atlanta Jewish Times.