Community Leaders Experience the Uniqueness of Israel
For nine days, beginning on October 26th, a group of twenty-two delegates from Northern Arizona immersed themselves in the diversity that is Israel. Because even a brief description of the highlights of the trip would far exceed the space of this newsletter, only a few of the outstanding encounters the delegates experienced can be spotlighted.
On their first full day in Israel, the group was provided briefings by military and political experts on the current status of Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors. Brigadier-General Danny Gold, the developer of the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ Missile defense system, discussed the challenges of defending Israel from terrorists’ rocket attacks. Professor Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, provided a somber summary of the difficulties of the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
While visiting an Israeli settlement in the West Bank just outside of Tel Aviv, the delegates got an up-close and personal look at the security barrier separating the Israelis and Palestinians. In Tiberius, the delegates visited all of the major religious sites, along the Sea of Galilee, including the Church of the Beatitudes, the Church of Multiplication, and the Capernaum ruins.
At the site of the decisive tank battle in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the delegates heard first-hand how 177 Israeli tanks defeated a Syrian force of over 2,000 tanks. The hero of that battle and the recipient of Israeli’s highest military honor, the Medal of Valor, Retired General Avigdor Kahalani, provided the delegates with a spellbinding account of how the weary Israeli force overcame all odds and prevented the Syrians from overrunning Israel.
In Old Jerusalem the group toured the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and recent excavations under the Western Wall. No trip to Israel would be complete without a visit to the hilltop fortress of Masada and Dead Sea – the delegates enjoyed their float in the salty waters!
When asked to describe their experience, the most common remark from delegates was; “Unbelievable – It was a trip of a lifetime”.