Jewish National Fund Donors Love Being in Israel on 70th Anniversary

By: Erika Sallen/JNF

The Jewish world has become increasingly diverse and as time goes on, Jews continue to self-identify through a variety of various ways including through shared history, religious observance, and culture.  For Jewish National Fund, an apolitical organization, the varying diversity amongst its donors fits comfortably into this mold. However, there is one single commonality which they all share: the undeniable love and support of Israel that brought each of them to Israel this week on one of five JNF Israel@70 Tours.

For Gene Goldstein, from New York, traveling on the President’s Society Tour, his involvement with Jewish National Fund was a natural.  “You don’t need to explain yourself,” said Goldstein, “You don’t need to pretend to be somebody you’re not or assimilate. You can just be you.”  It is this feeling, the shared sentiment of Israel being a home away from home, which makes people feel personally connected to the many JNF projects and program areas, despite living thousands of miles away and seldom having the opportunity to visit.

The sense of comfort that one experiences when they come to Israel is so strong, that it remains long after donors return home. It is this connection that instills the desire to want to give back and support the growth of the country.  For the members of JNF’s President’s Society, many expressed their lifelong desire to make aliyah to Israel. Perhaps, for these philanthropists, their contribution to Jewish National Fund is their way to maintain a connection and a presence in the land they love so much.

Arriving on the eve of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, participants had a unique opportunity to observe the somber day of remembrance from a true Israeli perspective. For Sherri Samuels, of Highland Beach, FL, the sirens that went off throughout Israel at 10:00 a.m. were especially moving as all came to a standstill.  “We don’t do this back home so when the sirens went off, I had to work to hold back my tears. Just the fact that TV stations broadcast images and videos on the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah is amazing.  These emotions stem from perhaps finally feeling recognition for all of the struggles that our people have had to overcome.”

Quickly moving from a day of mourning, to one experiencing all Israel has to offer started with a tour of the famous Levinsky market where there are a growing number of restaurants, nut shops, and party favor stores. Goldstein shared that “I really enjoyed the tour. It was off the typical tourist track, allowing me to gain a sense of the ‘real Tel Aviv. That’s what I wanted to see here.”   

Jewish National Fund plans its tours to ensure they offer an authentic view of Tel Aviv.  Eating lunch at Yom Tov, a sandwich shop run by a Turkish family who immigrated to Israel in 1967, the travelers were greeted with platters filled with traditional smoked fish, stuffed cherry tomatoes and cheeses.  For desert, they walked to Café Levinsky, where they sampled the famous homemade soda water complete with natural fruit syrups and herbs.  Taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling Tel Aviv Marketplace all loved experiencing Tel Aviv like a local.

To get a glimpse of what the future of Israel looks like, the tour visited the Nefesh B’ Nefesh Hub, a Jewish National Fund partner that helps new immigrants (olim), transition and succeed in Israel.  They were greeted by three Olim who shared their personal stories and explained how the services  Nefesh B’ Nefesh and JNF offers helped them carry out their dreams of moving to Israel.

It is obvious that Jewish National Fund, as a nonprofit organization, stands out from others. As one participant put it, “With Jewish National Fund, I feel more personally involved. I can actually see where my money and support goes.”

For some of the tour participants, this trip to Israel was their first in many years. They all expressed similar sentiments—a feeling of awe in the changes and development that the country has experienced.

Israel, while recognizably tiny, is powerful, growing, and making its mark on the world. And it is Jewish National Fund that is helping to make this possible, especially for the olim in Israel, whose lives are directly influenced by JNF, and who wouldn’t be able to fulfill their dreams without the organization and its investments.

Perhaps Shlomit Cymbalista, one of the new olim impacted by JNF and Nefesh B’ Nefesh summed it up best, “The story doesn’t end when you get off the plane. We don’t forget where we come from. I’m both a proud American and a proud Israeli and Jewish National Fund makes this possible.”

read more close