Today is the State of Israel's 64th independence day.
I've been to Israel so many times. the first was in 1977, on a gap year program between big school and college. Affiliated with my your movement, Young Judaea, I attended theInstitute for Youth Leaders from Abroad, based in Jerusalem. After five months there, YJ gave me experiences on the YJ-founded Kibbutz Ketura, Moshav Amqa, a Yemenite town in the Galilee, and a month on an archaeological dig. I picked onions, milked cows, and dug trenches - and had a blast!
My next visits to Israel were as a leader of college youth trips. I worked in Hillel Foundations at the Ohio State University and University of Maryland in College Park. Both Hillels had me accompany trips to Israel in the 1980s.
I moved to Seattle in 1991 and the next year I accompanied a staff group to Israel from the Stroum Jewish Community Center. We were part of a larger mission form the local Jewish Federation.
Hadassah also sent me to Israel for the national convention in 2000 (or thereabouts). I've been fortunate that all of my jobs in the Jewish community offered me the perk of staffing a trip to Israel.
Rik and I took our trip to Israel together in 2003. My gap year program hosted their first ever reunion, where I reconnected with several of British friends who'd moved to Israel. My college roommate was also an alumna of this program, and we visited her family on Kibbutz Lotan as well.
I've been privileged to watch Israel grow and change over three decades. It's a country filled with thousands of years of history and the struggle with modernity. But it's a great place!