Dispatches from our residents in the Holy Land

Day Nine

Dear friends,

We had a great last day in Israel. We began with the Yitzhak Rabin Museum and learned both about his life, history and assassination.

From there we headed to the Museum if the Jewish People, formerly the Diaspora Museum. We saw some great exhibits including one on synagogues, another interactive one on heroes and a really fun one on Jewish humor.

We went back to the hotel to freshen up and then to an amazing exhibit on the Spirit of Innovation.

We finished the day with a great farewell dinner and are now at the airport ready to board our 1 am.



Day Eight

Dear friends, Our morning began with a walking tour of the kibbutz at Kfar Blum. We learned a lot about the kibbutz movement and what life on a kibbutz is all about. There were many questions and lots of great conversation.

From there we boarded the bus to head to Kishorit. Kishorit is a very special community for adults with special needs. In this supportive environment, their members live full and independent lives. They grow their food, raise goats for dairy products, breed dogs and even have a successful winery. We were not only impressed with the Kishorit program but also thoroughly enjoyed a delicious lunch and wine tasting.

We had brought gifts for the members, special bags with our Mission logo, each containing a piece of OMA art. We even managed to buy some wine to take home!

From Kishorit we drove through Haifa for a view of the Baha'i Gardens on our way to Caesarea. We toured the ruins and watched a film on Caesarea's history. Then back to the bus and on to Tel Aviv.

Tonight we had a wonderful dinner in our hotel and spent a few minutes at the end of our meal talking about the trip. This team has really become a family and we are all so thrilled to have had the privilege of sharing this adventure.

Shalom from all of us,


Day Seven

Dear friends, To say we had a remarkable day does not begin to describe it! This morning we drove through the town of Metulla on our way to Tel Dan and the nature preserve. We had a beautiful walk through the park and also learned of some of the historic importance of the area.

From there, we loaded back into the bus and headed further up into the Golan Heights. We had some unbelievable views and talked about the history and significance of the Golan Heights. We have many times touched on Israel's wars and territories and are all struck by just how close to the borders are neighboring (and not always friendly) countries.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a Druze Village and were intrigued by the story of the Druze people. As we learned, the Druze were a sect that broke off from the Muslim faith. They have their own practices and their own communities and their religion is kept secret, meaning no outsider can study it. Nor can you choose to convert and become Druze, you must be born into a Druze family. We had a fabulous lunch of falafel and all the trimmings and we all agreed that it was the best falafel we had ever tasted. Ending lunch with fresh baklava didn't hurt either!

The bus then took us to Mt. Bental, an inactive volcano that became an Israel surveillance position after 1967. We not only had great views of both Israel and Jordan but we also ran into a group of young soldiers. This group has only been together about 10 days and represents young people from 18 different countries. Believe it or not, we met a young man from Washington Township, New Jersey and he graduated high school last year with the nephew of one of our team, Julie Cochrane. Small world does not begin to tell the tale!

Our day ended with one of the highlights of the trip. We descended from the Golan to the shores of the Sea of Galilee where we (painstakingly) boarded a boat that took us across the entire body of water. We turned it into a "party boat" and had everyone (and I do mean everyone!) up and dancing. We danced, we sang, we enjoyed the water spray and had a fabulous time. We all sang Hatikvah as the boat docked, concluding an incredible ride.

Tomorrow--Tel Aviv!

Shalom from all of us,


Day Six

Dear friends, We left Jerusalem a little sad to see our time there come to an end. We headed to Bet Shean, the site of magnificent Roman and Byzantine ruins. We walked through the amphitheater, Roman baths and down the main street or "cardo." It was an absorbing history lesson for all.

From there we headed to Kibbutz Sde Eliahu, a kibbutz that is a center for organic farming. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and looked around for a bit before piling back into the bus.

Next stop was the Gilboa Wind Farm where we spent about an hour in a private tour learning about wind energy. There were many great questions and some lively conversation.

We drove along the Jordan River to Yardenit and spent some time at the site where the mouth of the Jordan River meets the Sea of Galilee. It's a site that is said to be Jesus' baptismal site and a number of our staff appreciated the chance to walk down to the water. We also watched a number of Christian pilgrims having full immersion baptisms--we were all fascinated!

Tonight and tomorrow night we are staying at a kibbutz hotel, a very different environment and our base to explore this northern part of the country.

At dinner we all had a chance to talk about moments we will remember from the trip so far--everyone spoke and everyone had something different and special. We are making many wonderful memories.

Shalom from all of us,

Day Five 

Dear friends, What an amazing day we had today! We started with a bus ride to Ein Gedi and a walk to the waterfalls. Some of our team ventured down into the water and enjoyed a little cool water on our feet! From there we headed to Masada for our first big adventure of the day. We took the cable car as far as it went, then we undertook the steep path to the top. Whether folks were walking or being pushed in wheelchairs, it's not an easy climb but we all made it work. We heard the story of Masada while we toured the site and then we sat for a few minutes in the ruins of the synagogue and reflected on the significance of this mountain and its history.

We headed down and re-boarded our bus for the drive to the Dead Sea. We stopped at a resort, enjoyed a lovely lunch and then changed into swimsuits to experience the buoyancy of the amazing body of salt water.

One of our resident travelers has much difficulty walking. We walked her down and into the water and then our ever resourceful Director of Nursing, Eric Riguerra, found a way to use a plastic chair to help position her. Many hands helped tip her back into the water and then the chair was removed and she was floating. Words cannot come close to describing how thrilled she was and how free she felt.

We hated to see our time in the water draw to a close. Tomorrow we leave Jerusalem for the Galilee!

Our days are flying here -- Shalom!


Day Four

Dear friends,

We spent Shabbat together in Jerusalem, so grateful for the privilege of this time together. Our Mission travelers have all so bonded and it is a joy to see the smiles, the friendship and the teamwork.

This morning our non-Jewish staff toured the Christian Quarter. Others of us stayed with the residents and it was not a tough assignment--we sat by the gorgeous roof top pool and talked and soaked up some sun. Some of our residents and staff enjoyed a good bit of exercise in the pool as well.

This afternoon we all took a walking tour of the German Colony, the area surrounding our hotel. We learned a lot of the history of the area and walked to the Montefiore windmill for some great view of the city.

Our evening events include a trip to the Mamila Mall, followed by the Light and Sound Spectacular at David's Citadel. Tomorrow we head to Masada and the Dead Sea.

All the best,


Day Three

Shalom from Jerusalem! Another early start today and a bus ride to Mount Zion. We saw the Tomb of David and the room where the Last Supper was said to have occurred. If you have ever been to that area, you know the walking is challenging for the able-bodied, imagine doing it with wheelchairs! But everyone did great and loved the history.

From there we walked through the Jewish quarter and learned more about the history of Jerusalem. Back on the bus, we took a short drive to the Friends of Zion Museum. This relatively new museum features the stories of "Christian Zionists" and does so with the use of extraordinary and interactive technology. We all marveled at it and heard lots of comments about "things we never knew."

After a great lunch, we watched the shops closing up for Shabbat as we headed back to the hotel. Later we will gather to light candles together and enjoy a Kabbalat Shabbat service, put together for us by Melanie, before dinner.

Our days are flying by and one is more amazing than the next.

Shabbat Shalom from all of us,

All the best,


Day Two

Dear friends, After a wonderful breakfast, we boarded our bus at 8:30 and headed to an amazing place, Yad L'Kashish, Lifeline for the Elderly. It's a unique place that was founded to address the needs of elderly immigrants, helping them to learn skills and earn an income.

They began with bookbinding and today they make incredible handicrafts of all sorts from hand-painted tallit to jewelry, picture frames and so much more. We toured the workshops and watched the artisans at work. One of our team speaks Russian and when she spoke to the predominantly Russian-speaking elders in the workshop, they all lit up with delight! We admired their work and had some fun in their Gift Shop, which supports their work.

From there, we headed to Yvel, a jewelry manufacturer. We learned about the owner, Isaac Levy, and his commitment to helping immigrants, as he once was. He has begun a school called Megemeria in which Ethiopian Jews are trained to become skilled jewelry craftspeople. We saw the training underway and then had a chance to tour the factory and the showrooms.

From there we were off to the Israel Museum for lunch and a chance to see the Shrine of the Book and the Dead Sea Scrolls. It prompted some lively conversation and thought-provoking questions.

Loading back on the bus, we headed to Yad Vashem. We spent several hours with a docent who really made the experience a special one for us, sharing some incredible stories. We began with the Children's Memorial, which is so emotional, and then the rest of the Holocaust museum. Everyone was moved, many to tears.

Back at our hotel we had a great dinner and we celebrated the birthday of one of our resident travelers. She was surprised and delighted!

All the best from Jerusalem!


Day One

Dear friends, After a long day and night of travel, we arrived at Ben Gurion airport at around 7:00 this morning. Although we had good intentions, none of us--staff or residents--managed to sleep on the plane. But we got our second (our third) wind and had an incredible, busy day.

We began with a visit to Neot Kedumin, where we had breakfast and each of us planted an oak tree in the Jewish National Forest. Our guide, Yaacov, told us that we were all now "rooted in Israel."

From there we headed to Ammunition Hill and learned the story of the 1967 War. Then on to Mt. Scopus where we had an extraordinary view of Jerusalem and we said our "Shehechianu" prayer. Lunch was delicious falafel which we ate at outdoor tables, soaking in the view.

We finished our day at the Western Wall, which was an emotional experience for all of us. We brought all of the notes that had been placed in our Western Wall replicas and carefully placed them in the wall. We stood together, we prayed and many shed a tear.

Wrapping up our day we checked into our hotel and finished the evening with a delicious dinner. I asked the residents about their impressions of the day and heard many glowing reports. My favorite comment came from Alan Horowitz, who lives at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. Alan said to me "No one could have gone through the day we did without it enhancing their pride in their Judaism. We are here because of so many who went before us and so many who gave up their lives. Regardless of how religious someone is, you felt a 'oneness' that was a great emotional experience."

All the best,


New Horizons

Carol Silver Elliott, President & CEO, Jewish Home Family

This morning we held our monthly meeting of our key management staff. That’s a group of about 20 people and I like to start each session with an icebreaker, a chance for people to learn more about each other and connect on a personal level. Today my icebreaker question was “What was the best advice you ever got and who gave it to you?” People shared some wonderful answers with advice that came from parents, teachers, mentors and others. It led me to continue asking the question of folks throughout the course of the day.

One of the responses I received really resonated with me. It was “always look for new horizons,” which really meant to keep learning, growing and experiencing new things.

It is particularly timely right now as we prepare to take another Mission to Israel with our residents. We are taking two residents who live in our nursing home and five from our assisted living. Each resident has a buddy who is a member of our staff. The buddies are traveling companions who make it possible for these older adults to manage this kind of major travel. We take a nurse with us as well whose job is solely to manage medications. It’s vital for us to be sure that everyone has their medication and that we have full knowledge of what they took and when.

Our schedule is a full one, each day filled with sites and learning. We truly miss nothing that any other Mission group would do including making our way to the top of Masada (yes, we use the cable car as far as it goes but it is still a good climb from there) and floating in the Dead Sea. We go to the Western Wall, on a tour of the Old City, on a boat in the Galilee, to the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv and so much more. We’re on the bus by 8:30 in the morning and we don’t come back to the hotels until it is time for dinner.

There are some who wonder what possesses us to take a group of medically complex older adults on a trip this intense. I think the answer is the advice that was shared with me earlier today. That is “new horizons.” For many of our travelers, this trip is the dream of a lifetime, a goal that they never thought they would be able to fulfill. They think that they have missed their moment, that their chance has passed them by. When we tell them that they can do this, that we will help them achieve that which seems impossible, their joy is boundless.

I have had the privilege of doing this kind of trip with residents four time in the past. Each time it is an incredible experience. To watch the resident’s faces as they see the country they have longed to see, to hear them marvel at seeing sites of history and religious significance that they have only read about, to listen to them ask great questions of our guide and hang on his every word—that is truly the meaning of “new horizons.” We don’t all have to take on an adventure of this magnitude to experience our own “new horizons.”

There are opportunities every day to learn, explore and experience—and to help others to do the same. What is your next “new horizon?” How will you make that happen and help to make it happen for others in your life?

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