This February, Beth Klapper, Michelle Korin, Angela Grabovsky, and Margo Fox joined 100 women from around North America on the Jewish Federation of North America’s Heart to Heart 6 women’s philanthropy mission to Israel. They describe their trip in one word—amazing.
This year, the emphasis was on learning about how Israelis are moving forward after last summer’s conflict. There were briefings, like those from IDF Colonel (Res) Miri Eisen and journalist Alon Ben-David. Eisen reviewed the summer operation and Ben-David provided an update on the current situation with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Israel’s other neighbors.
The group also traveled to the south to get a better sense of the challenges faced by the communities closest to Gaza. The first stop was at the Erez border crossing to better understand the geography and to speak with soldiers who are stationed there. The line of ambulances waiting to take Palestinians to Israeli hospitals highlighted the complexity of the current situation. The women spent a sobering and amazing visit with a woman who lives in Moshav Netiv Ha’asara. Her home was under fire this summer, yet she still volunteers to drive more mobile Palestinians to Israeli hospitals for treatment. She spoke candidly about the emotional toll this situation continues to take on her family and community. In an effort to create a place of hope, one resident of Moshav Netiv Ha’asara has developed the Nativ La’Shalom (Path to Peace) project, a mosaic and mural decorating the defense wall between the community’s fields and Gaza. The Heart to Heart women were happy to leave their mark for all to see.
Central to Heart to Heart is deepening understanding of how our overseas dollars support programs of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT. To highlight this, the group toured Sapir College and met with student leaders who are working with the JDC on improving access for students with disabilities at the school. This includes efforts such as ensuring appropriate academic resources and retro-fitting bomb shelters for wheelchair accessibility, imperative in a region where one has 15 seconds to get to a safe space after hearing a code red alarm.
Back in central Israel, the women from Indianapolis were inspired by Michal Barkai, founder of Mechina Alam Derech-Eretz, a new pre-army gap year program for girls from Israel’s periphery. Barkai is determined to help girls from all backgrounds get the necessary training to earn high positions in the IDF, thereby changing the trajectory of their lives. Michal’s energy and commitment to strengthening the fabric of Israeli society is inspirational. This program is funded by JAFI and also has the support of Israeli women philanthropists, some of whom are Lions of Judah.
So, how was the trip overall? Beth feels that it was her best trip to Israel ever and is looking forward to attending next year with her oldest daughter. For Angela, this mission highlighted the fact that we are one global Jewish family, and now more than ever it is up to us to look out for each other. After Heart to Heart, Michelle, Angela, and participants from South Bend headed north to spend time in the Western Galilee and be a part of our Partnership 2Gether initiative. Michelle felt deeply that Heart to Heart 6 and the Western Galilee visit were powerful, informative experiences that highlighted how strong, passionate, connected, and responsible our global Jewish family is.
Michelle is also looking forward to sharing the experience with her oldest daughter next year. We invite you, our Indianapolis women, to join us next year in Jerusalem!
If you would like to learn more about the Heart to Heart mission, please do not hesitate to contact Margo Fox at 317.715.9268 or mfox@JFGI.org and mark your calendars for early February 2016!