Last night, the last night of our Taglit birthright trip to Israel, President of Oranim Momo Lifshitz addressed the participants from our bus and from our unofficial sister bus, 465, who arrived the same day we did. He appealed to our Jewish souls to make the new Jewish babies, of course, and to remember the Holocaust so that it never happens again. “It is so important to rebuild the family. We are one, no matter what we think,” he said. Through this program, Momo noted that he’d shaken 20,000 people’s hands at the airport. “This program will be viewed as the one that changed the course of the Jewish people.”
But beyond those two national imperatives, Momo pointed out that Oranim, although it does more than any other birthright program, only provides a “taste of Israel,” and that everyone still leaves wanting more. “But for everyone, it is a different ‘more,'” he said, noting that Israel appeals to everyone in a different way.
“Everyone asks what the catch is. Well, there is a catch,” Momo admitted. “We want you to fall in love witht he Jewish people and with each other.” He urged us to make some sort of lasting connection to the Jewish community at home–whether it’s joining a synagogue, participating in Hillel events, having the occasional Shabbat meal with friends, or mingling with Jews. He noted that birthright would help–the active alumni association intends to provide regular programs, get-togethers and parties to make sure that the mingling continues. He noted that Oranim graduates could also come back as Ambassadors, to ensure the chain of continuity between their Israel experience and the Israel experiences of future birthright participants.
Over the course of the program, Momo says he has shaken the hands of 20,000 participants, and is optimistic that this program will make a substantial difference in the Jewish future. “This program,” he predicted “will be viewed as the one that changed the course of the Jewish people. The program is a taste of Israel. Everyone leaves wanting more, but wanting a ‘different’ more…I want you to fall in love with the Jewish people and with each other.”
Momo also singled out Jewlicious for our Shabbat program and for our approach to creating positive Jewish experiences–he noted his intention to develop the relationship with our writers in the future.
The participants were also given a chance to speak, or rather, react from their hearts. Our participants noted their favorite moments, with Shabbat lunches in a show of Jerusalem home hospitality from families in Jerusalem as a highlight. They noted the moments that they’d miss, and those that finally connected them with the geography and politics of the country, not to mention the people on the trip who, most acknowledged, had become an extended family, and contributed to the fact that they now really felt like Israel was home.
This afternoon, after going to Mini-Israel and perhaps to Latrun, our group will head to the airport, and unload our stuff from under the bus for the last time. We’ll say goodbye to some of our group, and others will remain, having extended their tickets so that they could see and do more on this trip to a new country, to their homeland. There will be tears–tears have, in fact, already begun.
We hope that they will keep in touch, with us and with each other. We hope they will enjoy the pictures. We hope that, remembering the sheer intensity of our program will help them forgive us that we’ve not been able to post daily throughout the trip. We hope that we’ll be creating a virtual home for them, here at Jewlicious, at Flickr pages, MySpace and perhaps Facebook, to keep them together even when they’re apart. And we hope that their connections, with each other and with Israel and the Jewish people, will continue.
More posts about the trip to come–they’ll be late, but they’ll be here. Just like our participants on the bus every morning. But that’s another story. Or at least another post.
Links, photos, memories…all to come. L’hitraot…