Nearly 500 participants representing over 50 Chabad House communities spanning thirty US states, Canada, England and Australia last week wrapped up JLI's Land and Spirit trip to Israel, an inspiring eight-day visit to the Holy Land.
The trip, lasting from Monday to Monday the following week, gave participants first-hand interaction with their history and heritage, and a glimpse of modern-day Israel with its important contributions to the world's economy and security.
A unique feature of the trip was that on several days the participants split into groups, allowing first-time visitors and seasoned travelers to customize their experience.
Among the sites on the trip was Tel Israel, where participants learned about Gideon's miraculous victory over the Midianites, the Elah Valley where David defeated Goliath, Mt. Gilboa where the battle that ended King Saul's reign occurred, and Megiddo where they learned about King Solomon.
They learned about the Maccabees in Modi’in and about Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi, the Sanhedrin and the compilation of the Mishnah in Tzippori. To learn about the Temple times they saw archaeological finds in the Western Wall tunnels, the City of David, the Davidson Center, the Southern Wall Excavations and the Jewish Quarter, and to learn about the Roman occupation they visited Caesaria, Akko, Masada and the caves at Beit Gavrun.
There were many other stops on the trip, and during the course of it participants were given the opportunity to interact with Israelis and learn about their lives. On the very first day of the trip they toured the thriving Campus Ohr Simcha Orphanage in Kfar Chabad, and participated in a model Matzah Bakery with the children.
In Sderot and at Kibbutz Alumim near the border with Gaza, they learned of the residents’ formidable endurance coping with the reality of regular rocket attacks and had an opportunity to voice their sympathy and support.
A highlight of the trip was the stop in Hevron, where participants prayed at the Cave of Machpelah and then had a concert on the steps outside. They then toured the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida.
The last day of the trip was spent with IDF soldiers at the Latrun Tank Museum where participants sang and danced, laid tefilin (phylacteries) and spoke with the soldiers. In just eight days, participants collected a lifetime of educational and emotional souvenirs that will remain an inspiration for years to come.