What is an aspect of Israel that few tourists see? Most tours focus on history, religion or geo-politics. The Jewish Alliance’s Israel Mission in October will focus on cultural and socio-economic diversity. This tour is ideal for both first-timers and experienced travelers, since most days will offer a number of concurrent options, permitting participants to explore new areas.
For example, in Tel Aviv participants will be able to choose from several predetermined tracks, such as a bike tour of the diverse neighborhoods or a guided tour by local artists of various galleries. Instead, some may opt to visit a local startup to learn about Israel as the “start-up nation” while others may choose a culinary tasting tour of an outdoor market to experience food from Jewish communities such as Italy, Greece and Persia.
Shabbat afternoon could be spent walking through a neighborhood built in the 1800s (with funds donated by Rhode Island’s own Judah Touro), along with the more modern Hassenfeld Fountains, while enjoying the poetry of one of Israel’s famed poets. Others will visit a recently opened museum about Christian supporters of Zionism (such as the world founder of the Red Cross and Queen Victoria) presented in high-tech exhibits. Some may choose to spend the time at Masada and the Dead Sea.
There will be opportunities to experience the art, cuisines, cultures and concerns of many ethnic groups: Christian Arabs, Moslem Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Jews from Ethiopia, the Former Soviet Union and communities across the Middle East. Speakers include the renowned Biblical scholar Aviva Zornberg and experts such as Avraham Infeld and Noam Zion. Whether you meet with student film directors or teachers in at-risk neighborhoods, their insights into Israeli society will astonish you.
Plenty of free time is built in, with guidance for where to go and what to do for those who want it. Those who want to bar-hop one evening will be guided to the best places, while those who want to attend the newest outdoor sound, light and acting show will be accommodated. We will organize groups and recommend restaurants that show off new Israeli cuisines.
Flights are nonstop from Boston on El Al Israel Airlines, departing on Sunday, Oct. 14, returning on Tuesday, Oct. 23. The General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America will take place following the mission. Subsidies are available to people under 40. For more information, contact Gail Putnam at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-421-4111, ext. 158.
LARRY KATZ is the director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.