Chicago Newlyweds Lead Interfaith Mission to Israel
CHICAGO, August 16, 2022 — Home to holy sites for three of the world’s major religions, Israel is a unique melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and religions all living together in an inspiring demonstration of coexistence in the Middle East. And anyone who has traveled to the Holy Land will tell you that the only way to truly appreciate the country’s beauty, diversity, and zest for life is to visit in person.
Charles Trost, Annie Trost, Anne Yeakel, Lee Yeakel, Barbara Spivack, Joel Sklar, Joe Diurno, Marlene Copeland Dodinval, Jacqueline Taylor-Rones, Wayne Tabachnick, Todd Rones, Gail Regenbogen, Howard Swibel
For 13 intrepid travelers, that’s exactly what they did on a Jewish National Fund-USA Interfaith Mission to Israel, led by Chicago-based mission chairs, Howard Swibel and Gail Regenbogen, and Marlene Copeland Dodinval, JNF-USA’s Executive Director in Chicago. For ten days, the attendees of varying faiths traveled around Israel, visiting several of its holy sites important to Jewish, Christian, and Catholic travelers.
The first stops on the tour included museums dedicated to sharing important historical narratives of pre-state Israel, including two of Jewish National Fund-USA’s Israeli heritage sites. Participants visited the Ayalon Institute in Rechovot, which details the incredible story of a secret bullet factory that was operated in the 1940s by the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish militia that preceded the Israel Defense Forces, on a Kibbutz just a short distance from a then British military base. The group also visited the Atlit Detention Camp, where they were moved by the stories of Jewish immigrants who were captured and detained by British officers post-WWII.
Joseph Diurno, Gail Regenbogen, Jacqueline Taylor-Rones, Todd Rones, Anne Yeakel, Barbara Spivack, Wayne Tabachnick, Charles Trost, Annie Trost, Joel Sklar, Howard Swibel, Lee Yeakel, Marlene Copeland Dodinval
In addition, the group visited several sites that showcased Jewish National Fund-USA’s visionary projects that are impacting Israelis living in the country’s Negev and Galilee regions. A trip to one of JNF-USA’s affiliates, LOTEM, demonstrated how JNF-USA helps make nature accessible for people with disabilities, and how the organization enables children with special needs and at-risk women to maximize their enjoyment of nature by offering special outdoor activities and field trips. A visit to JNF-USA’s Sderot Indoor Recreation Center, however, showcased a much different way that the organization improves the quality of life for Israelis, as the bomb-proof indoor play center provides a much-needed sense of normalcy for families living in a town located less than one mile from the Gaza border.
For newlyweds Swibel and Regenbogen, serving as mission chairs gave them both a birds-eye and on-the-ground view of how transformative the mission was for its participants. The couple attended a Jewish National Fund-USA Interfaith Mission several years ago, and they were so inspired they wanted to lead a mission of their own.
Joseph Diurno, Howard Swibel, Gail Regenbogen, Marlene Copeland Dodinval, Joel Sklar, Barbara Spivack, Lee Yeakel, Anne Yeakel, Todd Rones, Wayne Tabachnick, Jacqueline Taylor-Rones
“Most of the participants who joined Gail and me were visiting Israel for the first time,” said Swibel. “Without exception, they were awed by what they saw and whom they met. Whether from New York, Texas, Michigan, or Tennessee, their preconceived notions melted away. They reveled in up-scale accommodations and tasty meals, which served as a backdrop to spectacular sites — both ancient and modern. We were drawn together by the continuity and shared values of Judeo-Christian culture.”
The Interfaith Mission participants also visited several important Christian sites, including Nazareth and a tour of Bethlehem with a Palestinian Christian guide who showed them several important places in the area while also giving them a unique perspective on Israel’s security situation.
Ready to visit Israel? Learn more about all of Jewish National Fund-USA’s upcoming missions to Israel, including a once-in-a-lifetime trip celebrating Israel at 75 at jnf.org/travel.
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About Jewish National Fund-USA
JNF-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, JNF-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel, and creating infrastructure and programs that support ecology, individuals with special needs, and heritage site preservation.