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JLI Mission a Spiritual Exploration of Israel
Jewish Ledger
Posted Thursday, Oct 14th, 2010

JLI Mission a Spiritual Exploration of Israel

Published: Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:04 PM EDT

Seven members of the Greater Springfield community recently embarked on a spiritual exploration of the ancient and modern land of Israel. "The Land and the Spirit" mission, sponsored by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), was a gathering of people from the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Israel and South Africa.

Rabbi Yakov Wolff, JLI instructor, led the Greater Springfield participants who met with 150 others in Tel Aviv. Included on the mission were veteran travelers, first time visitors to Israel, JLI students, JLI instructors and their families. "It was truly inspirational and rewarding to visit Israel together with a dedicated group of students from JLI, the largest institute of adult learning of its kind", remarked Rabbi Wolff. "Utilizing this trip, JLI students had the opportunity to pursue their Judaism and connection to Israel."

The Land and Spirit toured Tiberias, Safed, Jerusalem and Hebron. Tiberias, overlooking the Sea of the Galilee Kenneret, which is over 600 feet below sea level, was the first overnight stop on the tour. Visiting Safed, perched hundreds of feet above Tiberias, gave everyone an opportunity to shop in the famous art galleries. In Tiberias that evening, they danced on a boat in the Kenneret and visited the graves of Maimonides and the other Talmudic sages. The group attempted to write scrolls of their own at a scribe's factory as well as watching a 3-D demonstration. The tour also visited the Golan Heights, Mount Meron and Gamla, all in the north. On the way to Jerusalem where the JLI group lodged at the David Citadel hotel, the tour visited "Abraham's Tent" where participants had an opportunity to ride camels and enjoy a festive dinner hosted by "Abraham" himself.

Speakers throughout the mission included the Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Natan Sharansky; and Knesset members, MP Uzi Landau, and MP Tzachi Hanegbi. The message of all the speakers is how crucial it is for Israel to have positive ambassadors around the world.

Chabad Houses in several towns welcomed the travelers with refreshments, educational videos, and most of all, friendship. JLI visited Chabad in Hebron which hosts hundreds of soldiers for Shabbat each week.

"My trip to Israel with the Chabad was a wonderful, spiritually uplifting experience. I was especially moved by our tour of Beit Lechem (Tomb of Rachel) and the Tomb of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs," said Judy Sachs.

"In the West Bank, among several other areas of Israel, one gets the true feeling of how tiny the country is, especially when you go into "gated" communities beyond the 1967 borders. Arab and Jewish towns are side by side - but there is so little space. It's hard to imagine giving away what little land we have been able to hold onto," said Fay Smith. "The security in the West Bank is remarkable, but I can't imagine living with the fear of terror so close," she added.

Nancy Squires was touched as well, having not been to Israel for 30 years. "A crowning moment of the trip was a ceremony at the Kotel where the newest Israeli soldiers were being sworn into the military. It made me think of all the warriors who fought enemies there for thousands of years," she remarked.

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