What makes a person think it would be a good idea to join a Federation CJA mission to Israel – much less, the Montreal Mega Mission: Centennial Edition,with over 900 participants?
Because she has never been to Israel, and imagines that the mission will provide her with the very best “first” experience in Ha’aretz.
Because he’s been to Israel before, but knows that a Federation mission is able to provide unparalleled access to the most unique sites, with the most qualified experts in the field, and show him the parts of Israel he simply can’t see on his own.
Because she’s been to Israel more times than she can count, but knows that there is always more to see, to hear, and to taste in one of the most fascinating countries in the world.
Because he’s not really a “joiner”, but hasn’t stop hearing the buzz from friends who went on the 2014 Mega Mission.
My very first “Israel experience” was in the PBE: the Pre-Birthright Era. I was an idealistic, 17 year-old, high school graduate, and my gift was 8 weeks on an American Zionist Youth Foundation trip. I arrived in early July 1976 (yes, you now know my age), just days after Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal forces had freed 103 hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, in an operation that amazed the world. It was three years before Sinai would be returned to Egyptian control under the Begin-Sadat peace agreement. We climbed Mount Sinai, traveled to the tip of the Sinai Peninsula – Sharm El Sheikh – and worked on a Kibbutz only minutes away from the Lebanese border – and did so absolutely sans souci.
Those were heady days in Israel; the mood was euphoric, and the entire experience left an indelible mark on my Jewish identity.
My love affair with Israel never waned, and I visited several times between 1976 and 2011. Each trip brought new discoveries and deeper attachment to this miraculous little country, homeland of the Jewish people.
Then, in 2012, only months into my job here at Federation CJA, I went on my very first “mission to Israel.” And I finally got it. What all these people had been talking about for years; the magic of a mission to Israel.
There really is nothing quite like it. Because no matter how much you love Israel and her people, no matter how many times you’ve been there, no matter how much you think you already know about Israel, there is just something indescribable about experiencing Israel on a Federation CJA mission.
Sure, a mission provides unparalleled access to sites, to speakers across the political, sociological and cultural spectrum, and to engagement with the richness of Israeli life. But beyond the things you can see and do and learn on a mission, there is the fact of seeing, doing and learning together, of experiencing Israel through the eyes of your fellow travelers – those you knew before the mission, and those you’ve gotten to know because of the mission.
The slogan for the very first annual campaign in January 1917 was “Unity is Strength”. A century later, those words still ring true. Our Montreal Jewish community is a shining example across the world, and it is the collective experience that makes this mission so deep, intimate, and exhilarating. (Also exhausting, but we’ll leave that for my next blog!)
Looking out at the sea of faces at last week’s final orientation session, I felt a powerful wave of gratitude: for the profound commitment of our Mega Mission co-chairs to developing the most extraordinary trip, for the excellence of our professionals in planning every last detail, and for the love of community and the Jewish people that convinced 900 people to take this journey with us.
If you won’t be with us in person from May 10-19, please follow us on all the social media you know how to use (or that the millennials in your life can teach you to use). You can visit www.montrealmegamission.com and www.facebook.com/FederationCJA for photos, videos and more, and you can follow along with the hashtag #MTLmegamission to see participants sharing their experiences on social media. And stay tuned for tales of our adventure in my next blog, and from your friends and family upon their return.
Wishing us all a Nesiah Tova.