Israel: Welcome Home.

Keeping Connected    November 2023

Growing up, I never had a strong connection to Israel.  In fact, probably the most connected I felt was raising money in 5th grade religious school selling fruit slices at Passover to plant trees there – which spoiler alert: the Jewish National Fund doesn’t keep track of your trees like my 10 year old mind expected.  So when I landed at Ben Gurion airport this past spring and there were signs and banners that said “Welcome Home”, I assumed it was a message for Israelis returning from overseas trips.

But the message “Welcome Home” was in fact, for me.  For me, the 8 other New Hampshire women I was bringing to Israel – most for the first time – and for the 150 women from across the country that were all there on a trip with Momentum.  Momentum is focused on bringing the biggest Jewish influencers – Jewish mothers – to Israel for an empowering and inspiring journey.  Working with the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Momentum combines traveling throughout Israel with personal and Jewish growth.  Think of it as “Birthright for Moms – with Wine”.

To say that the trip was life-changing is an understatement.  I was lucky enough to be there on Yom Ha’atzmaut – celebrating 75 years of Israel – complete with dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, flyovers, fireworks, and a BBQ with IDF soldiers.  I climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, rode camels, looked out over Lebanon from Rosh Hanikra, visited Tsfat, Akko, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, ate everywhere from gorgeous restaurants to market sabich stands (and ate and ate and ate…).  I experienced Israel with other women from my state and country, but also with a small group of women who were until almost 3 weeks ago, retired IDF officers and commanders.  These women have now been called up and instead of trading photos of our kids, we are sending prayers and receiving photos of them in their IDF uniforms.  Connecting to Israel during my trip was more than JNF trees and dutifully singing Hatikvah like when I was 10 years old.  I felt a true, yet unexpected, connection to the people and the land.

As I crisscrossed Israel, travelling to places I had only seen in pictures, I truly began to understand that the message “Welcome Home”, was actually for all of us.  While I was at the Kotel, someone asked me, “how many of your family members, your ancestors, have stood here with their hands in this place?”  The truth is, none that I know of.  But something deep in my soul understood that this was in fact, a homecoming.  Israel is home for all of us, regardless if we have been there once or countless times.  Israel is our home, even if we have never stepped foot on the land.  I hope for everyone to feel that deep sense of connection that I was able to experience.  Israel will be waiting to welcome us home again.

Am Yisrael Chai.