Getting to Israel by Any Means Necessary

jerusalemSometimes I feel like a spiritual outcast, having never visited our Holy Land. Sometimes I assume the majestic views of the Masada and Sea of Galilee would always escape my gaze. Sometimes I feel an intersection of opportunity, economics, and schedule couldn’t happen, preventing that journey from ever materializing. And sometimes, admittedly often, I’m dead wrong.

Because I’m leaving. On a jet plane. To Israel! And I can’t wait to get on the road again. On the road again. Goin’ places that I’ve never been. Seein’ things that I may never see again.

For the millennials out there, I was quoting Willie Nelson, with a touch of John Denver for good measure.

Maybe this sounds familiar… I am a father with school age children. I’m busy with work, parenting, home ownership, and hobbies. I have the normal heavy load of financial commitments, not the least of which is a child having a Bar Mitzvah this year. And, unfortunately, I don’t have even a single stack of hundred dollar bills hidden in the mattress. Entering 2014, a trip to Israel was the last thing on my mind.

But creative problems need creative solutions, and I fell ass-backwards into a solution that likely wouldn’t occur to the average TC Jewfolk reader.

The Minneapolis Jewish Federation, for the first time, has created a special mission to Israel for grandparents and grandchildren. But I have neither any grandchildren nor living grandparents. By definition, that should pretty much exclude me from the opportunity. Except that it doesn’t. Lucky for me, the Federation is far more interested in providing opportunities than placing unnecessary restrictions on those opportunities.

The reason I’m packing my bags (in June) is thanks to the actual grandparents and grandchildren of this story. My mother and stepfather are going, and taking my 14 and 12 year old children. My children get the experience of a lifetime, their grandparents get to provide and share that experience with them, and I don’t have to pay for it. So before I joined in, it was already a win all the way around.

But then I was invited to join.

This created a dilemma for me. My mom and stepfather were already being amazingly generous by taking my two children to Israel. If I went, I wanted to pay for most if not all of the trip. Being able to see Israel with my kids, share that experience with them, and only pay the cost of one person traveling sounded great. But that is still a bundle of cash. I sought advice from many, including friends that have been to Israel. The advice was unanimous… find the money, it’s totally worth it, experience of a lifetime, go.

One person may have said something along the lines of, “Don’t be a f*&%in’ idiot, Kapel! Go!”

So I’m going. I’ll be the only person between the ages of 18-60 on the trip, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll miss out on the nightlife of Tel Aviv or a wing man to help flirt with cute Israeli girls or whatever it is (relatively) young people do in Israel. But I’ll be with close family, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Before I suggest you join me, full disclosure… The mission is being led by the Federation’s Senior Philanthropy Officer Mort Naiman, who is also the aforementioned stepfather. Mort has led more than 30 missions to Israel, and the itinerary they have planned for us is amazing.

I don’t have to be the only non-minor non-Medicare-eligible person on the trip (sorry Mort, that was a poetic exaggeration, I know you’re not Medicare-eligible). There is room for more of us. Get your parents to take your children to this once in a lifetime experience, and then tag along for the ride. Or get your parents to take your children, and you can stay home and enjoy yourself kid-free.

I’m actually not writing to recruit for the Federation’s grandparent mission (though if interested – call, text, or email Mort at 612-968-9102 – [email protected]).

I’m writing because I believe there are many people like me out there. People who have given up on the dream of visiting Israel. People who rationalize not going by falsely downplaying the importance of the experience. People who say they’ll never have the time or money to make the journey. People who don’t think they are ready to take that first giant step.

But you should go. I should go. We should all go. And even if the years of Alexander Muss and Birthright have passed and a grandparent/grandchild mission isn’t your thing, there are still creative solutions to creative problems. Find a way. I did.