Travel Blog: 2022 Weinberg Mission to Israel

Tags: Young Adults, Israel, Federation

  • Share This Story

Jewish Cleveland young leaders are having the adventure of a lifetime on the Young Leadership Division (YLD) Weinberg Mission to Israel! Participants are experiencing Israel’s vibrant arts and culture scene, learning about innovative technology, networking with leadership in the nation’s up and coming industries, tasting the flavors of the country, and more. Check out their Mission blog below!

The YLD Weinberg Mission to Israel is generously supported by a fund established by Penni & Steve Weinberg.

March 8

by Caroline Goldman

This morning we enjoyed a delicious Israeli-style hotel breakfast and then we were off for the day! We began with an introduction to the high-tech world in Israel with a Q & A with Rony Rozen, technical program manager at Google. She told us of her story from coding in the air force to being CEO of her own company and ultimately landing at Google. We all enjoyed a group discussion about the incredibly fast-paced and ever-growing business community in Israel.

Afterward we took a short drive over to Tel Aviv’s Sarona neighborhood, learning about the community’s change from military to startup capital of the country. Then it was off to the Carmel Market for a “food crawl” and guided tour with Yael Bar Ilan. From modern fish dishes to the classic Israeli falafel, malawach to cleansing fruit juices, borekas to crafted beer, we tasted it all! Topped off with chocolates and coffee we were ready for the next adventure of the day - the newly renovated “Anu” museum (formerly known as the Diaspora museum) dedicated to Jewish continuity and unifying past, present, and future.

After a short break we went to the Goshen restaurant and met with representatives from “Commanders for Peace.” Both Yoni Shimshoni and Nimrod Novic were inspirational to say the least. The entire group was actively engaged in deep conversation for hours! It was an incredible day!

March 9

by Shmuel Goldman

Our day was enlightening and action-packed. We began with a bus ride north from Tel Aviv, highlighted by our tour guide Yona’s overview of how the demographics of Israel evolved. To illustrate the point, we stopped in Kochav Yair where Jewish, Palestinian, and Israeli Arab towns were all in view, and then in Givat Haviva where we heard from Mohammad Darawshe about the work he does towards building a “shared society” between Jews and Arabs.

Over a quick falafel lunch in Afula, we met Liat Damoza, who shared her personal story about arriving from Ethiopia as a young child, and then guided us through a visit to the Beit Alfa absorption center to hear more about the process of preparing Ethiopian immigrants for integration into Israeli society (over a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, of course).

From there, we continued to the Meir school in Beit Shean, participating in a solar-system-building STEM activity with student scientific guides, and an extremely competitive spaghetti tower creation activity of our own! At the Adir school, we heard about the Youth Futures program providing mentorship to at-risk children, then met a few of the students to make Purim masks together.

We capped the day with a delicious home-cooked Persian dinner in Beit Shean. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store!

March 10

by Miriam Giardina

When it comes to experiencing Israel, you come on Birthright to see. You come on the Weinberg Mission to hear. We began Thursday with hearing the stories of our young adult partners in Beit Shean. As they shared with us the challenges and opportunities of building a strong community in their city, we appreciated exactly why Cleveland and Beit Shean are true partners in our work: both cities have negative stereotypes to overcome, a need for jobs and culture in order to thrive, and education to sustain the connections. Just as Cleveland has overcome great obstacles to now rank as a top city for young professionals to establish their lives, so will Beit Shean.

We spent the rest of the morning touring the National Park learning the ancient Roman history of the area and the boarder overlooking Jordan learning about the agriculture. We drove on highway 90 through the West Bank to our final destination of the mission in Jerusalem this afternoon. In Jerusalem we walked through Maya Sharim and learned about the STEM program in the Haradi community center. We capped the evening with a dinner at the La Guta restaurant.

March 11

by Dana Attias

We woke up right in the center of Jerusalem in the beautiful Mamilla Hotel. We headed for breakfast and enjoyed a delicious Israeli breakfast at the hotel. We then rushed onto the bus to head to the Arab market. We walked through with a security guard at the back and our tour guide leading the way. It was pouring with rain but that didn’t stop the crowds of people, Muslims, Jews and Christians, from walking side by side rubbing shoulders and all seeming in a rush to get somewhere down the narrow streets of the old city. We arrived by a small door where some of us tried to guess the secret code to enter (open sesame seeds?). A lady opened the door and let us all into the beautiful nunnery building which had several floors and beautiful Jerusalem stone interior. We went all the way to the top and saw the beautiful view of Jerusalem below us.

We then met in one of the large meeting room and sat in a circle with two Palestinian men, one was named Shadi Abu Jaber, who told us about their involvement with Youth Futures, a Federation-supported program. They told us about the incredible success they’ve had with 96 troubled Palestinian kids from east Jerusalem. Their work includes weekly one-on-one meetings and after-school activities, as well as involvement with their families and home visits. They told us most of their students ended up going to university (whereas without the program they were likely to go down violent paths and prison time).

We then walked to the Western Wall and had a chance to touch the wall and say a little prayer before heading to the newest section of the Western Wall tunnels that have only recently been discovered. It was fascinating! We learned about the mikvahs and saw an entire new part of the Western Wall they discovered underneath with original stone from the second temple. We then had free time and most of the group headed to the Mehane Yehuda market to eat lunch that the tour guide said was his favorite restaurant in Jerusalem (Iraqi food).

Tonight we will all meet in a private room to enjoy a delicious Shabbat dinner together. Shabbat Shalom!

March 13

by Joe Littman

On the last day of the trip we started the day with breakfast in the hotel and COVID tests to allow us to re-enter the U.S. Thankfully everyone on the trip tested negative and were cleared to return. We then went to the Joint to hear about how the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) are responding to the evolving situation in Ukraine. They described their efforts to support Jewish and non-Jewish civilians on the ground in Ukraine (and the surrounding countries). The head of the JDC’s activities is Ukrainian and gave an incredibly impactful description of how the unknown situation around her family is unbearable. She said each time she communicates with her brother, who is still in Ukraine, it often takes hours for him to respond. She said she “dies inside” each day as she waits for a reply.

We then visited with the Israel Trauma Coalition, who described the challenges many residents face with respect to rocket and other attacks coming from Gaza. Citizens have around 12 seconds to find shelter in the event of an attack. This leads to tremendous anxiety, often most acute for children. A 19 year-old resident shared that a common fear is showering because it can be hard to make it to a safe zone in time. The coalition has open an animal center for children to help them cope with the situation they grew up in.

Next we went to the Gaza border and spoke about the situation in Gaza. The last five months have been peaceful and Israel has reinstated work visas for a few Gaza residents so they can travel to the surrounding Israeli cities to find better paying jobs. Now that Hamas is governing Gaza, they hope the prospect of gainful employment will encourage a state of relative peace, as Hamas tries to better the lives of the people it governs.

From there we went to Jaffa to walk through the old city and the market. We ended the day with our “last supper” in Tel Aviv prior to our departure. We used this as an opportunity to reflect on this experience and share the most impactful events of the mission. In addition to seeing the important initiatives the Federation supports, we all are leaving Israel with 11 new lifetime friends.

For more information on how to get involved with the Federation's Young Leadership Division, email yld@jewishcleveland.org.

Learn More: Young Adults, Israel, Federation