JNF-USA Sunshine Tour Participants "Treated Like Royalty" During Mission to Israel
By Anita Silvert
They say that to travel is to live, and for 25 participants, attending one of Jewish National Fund-USA’s missions to Israel felt like “sunshine” during their first international trip since the start of the pandemic.
JNF-USA Sunshine Tour participants pose in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
According to Dianne Ruderman, a JNF-USA partner (donor) and Sunshine Tour participant who lives in Arizona, the group of active adults ages 55+ were “treated like royalty,” during the 10-day luxury “bucket list” vacation and got to experience “the Israel [they’d] never heard about.” Although Ruderman had been to Israel before, this was her first time visiting the country on a JNF-USA mission.
Dianne Ruderman floats in the Dead Sea
Participants were immediately immersed in Israeli culture from the moment they arrived at Ben Gurion airport. Their bespoke itinerary took the travelers from Jerusalem’s historic Old City to Tel Aviv, the modern metropolis and most cosmopolitan city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. They explored Israel’s verdant north, the city of Be'er Sheva – the “capital of the Negev,” and the Dead Sea. The story of Israel was told through visits to the Caesarea and its Roman-era aqueducts, as well as the Atlit Detention Center, where thousands of Jewish immigrants were held during the British Mandate.
The group enjoyed authentic cuisine, fine dining, and luxurious accommodations throughout Israel while seeing firsthand how Jewish National Fund-USA is supporting population growth in Israel’s north and south by investing in agriculture, tourism, and technology development, while also creating affordable housing for residents with access to good schools, quality healthcare, jobs, and community life.
Sunshine Tour participants visited JNF-USA and KKL-JNF’s 9/11 Memorial in Jerusalem — the only commemorative site of its type outside of the U.S. that lists all the names of those who perished on September 11, 2001
Shopkeepers and small business owners from the Artists' Quarter in Jaffa and the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem were thrilled to see tourists again. “Thank you for coming!” Ruderman said they heard over and over. The happy shoppers certainly did their part to aid the Israeli economy.
Steve Lefland, a Sunshine Tour participant and the trip’s unofficial photographer from The Villages, Florida, found the visit to Atlit where they sat in an old C46 airplane that brought over Holocaust survivors very moving and impactful.
The Villages resident, Steven Lefland, proudly poses in front of an Israeli fire truck donated by Jewish National Fund-USA
One stop on the group’s itinerary that gave them pause to reflect was a visit to Halutza, a community built in a remote section of the Negev, near the Egyptian and Gaza borders. The group saw bomb shelters (many of which were donated by JNF-USA supporters) and learned how residents must get to a shelter within 20 seconds of a siren going off. Despite this environment, the inhabitants of Halutza said they are committed to living in this area of the Negev, and with the help of Jewish National Fund-USA, have created a beautiful community that’s expanding every day.
Featured in national travel publications including National Geographic, JNF-USA’s Travels & Tours offers Zionists, travel aficionados, and global explorers incredible vacations to Israel. Prior to the pandemic, JNF-USA introduced more than 3,000 people annually to its life-changing and vital work in Israel through a variety of missions, customized day trips, and student travel — providing firsthand opportunities to witness the impact of the organization’s crucial environmental and nation-building activities like never before.
Join the next JNF-USA Sunshine Tour for active adults ages 55+ planned for June 12-21, 2022, and December 11-20, 2022. The December trip will offer an optional pre-mission trip to Dubai on December 5-9 and will include Shabbat in Tel Aviv. Learn more about these missions by visiting jnf.org/sunshinejune and jnf.org/travel.