This is a guest post by Joanna Lowinger, writing about her life experiences as a 30-something Jewish woman in the Twin Cities. As an active participant in the Twin Cities vibrant Jewish community, she volunteers with Hadassah, the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival and Beth Jacob Congregation, among many others.
It was my second trip, my first being a Birthright Israel trip in January 2001. While I loved that trip and it will always hold the position as my first trip; my second trip this past November, will forever be remembered as my favorite.
I experienced a new kind of Hadassah Mission, one that showed the human side and the Hadassah side of Israel. I visited many important historical sites and several of the Hadassah projects; I saw how what we do for Hadassah in the US helps, not just Israel, but the world.
Now if Hadassah sends 22 young women to Israel, they make sure the young women have an amazing time. We did, from finding out that former past National President Marlene Post was going to lead our group to making sure we had the best Israeli tour guide possible, we had it all.
We hit the ground running when we landed in Israel, with not a moment to pause for a bathroom break (ok, we made them stop, a few times). We went immediately to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, then to Haifa, to the Kotel & Tunnel Tour, down to Sederot and the JNF Underground Playground, to Masada and the Dead Sea and back to Jerusalem.
We had many adventures on our trip. One of those adventures was volunteering with some of our Young Judea Year Course students. I choose the option of heading to the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem – The Biblical Zoo. The Young Judea Year Course students took us on a behind the scenes tour of the zoo, we helped them prepare food, we saw where they worked, and even got to pet a few animals. On our way out, they made sure we saw as much of the zoo as possible, the Year Course students are really amazing kids.
Now, on a Hadassah mission, one of the many highlights includes visiting the Hospital and seeing some of the behind the scenes things that only Hadassah women and employees of the Hospital get to see and do. We spent half a day touring and exploring Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) Ein Kerem, from the Ein Kerem Mall were we ate lunch to the Mother-Child Pavilion and a special tour of the children’s cancer ward to a hard hat tour of the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. We visited the chapel and saw the Chagall windows. We even had time to hear from a few of the doctors who work there, about what they do and who they are outside of work.
As our trip started coming to its close, we celebrated Shabbat in Jerusalem. We heard a personal story of survival from a Holocaust survivor and visited Yad Vashem. We visited Mechaneh Yehudah (open air market), where everyone was preparing for Shabbat; we held candle lighting at the hotel and walked to the Kotel.
I saw the joy and enthusiasm in all of the people in the city and at the Kotel, singing and praying, dancing and jumping.
In a nutshell, it was 8,040 minutes, it was 134 hours, it was 46 amazing events.
I am excited for the opportunities that I see ahead of me with Hadassah, I’m delighted to have made 21 new friends, who all live around the country. I am energized for what Hadassah is doing in the US and in Israel. I’m thrilled to celebrate 2011 with a year of special events and amazing opportunities. And I’m looking forward to returning to Israel in October 2012, to celebrate, not only our 100th birthday, but the opening of the newest addition to HMO Ein Karem, the stunning 19-story state-of-the-art Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower.
You can join me on our path to 100 years and so much more, learn more about Hadassah and join this amazing organization at: www.Hadassah.org or www.UpperMidwest.Hadassah.org or www.Minneapolis.Hadassah.org.