Tucson congregations headed to Holy Land

Thinking about going to Israel in 2014? At least five Tucson congregations would be delighted to have you join them.

Congregation Or Chadash is first up with a trip March 5 to 12. Congregation Chofetz Chayim’s trip will be May 4 to 18, followed by Congregation Bet Shalom June 2 to 12, Temple Emanu-El June 11 to 23 and Congregation Anshei Israel June 25 to July 6.

This will be Or Chadash’s first congregational mission, says Rabbi Thomas Louchheim, and many of the participants who’ve signed up so far have never been to Israel before. It’s a chance to expose them to everything that makes Israel meaningful, he says, which for him is “one of the un-ending privileges of being a rabbi.” His wife, Marcia, a Jewish educator, will co-host the trip, which will include Purim celebrations in Tel Aviv.

The group will also seek opportunities to look at both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, says Louchheim, “to the realities of finding a viable solution to the standoff and creating a Palestinian state.”

For more information, visit www.orchadash-tucson.org.

Three years ago, Congregation Chofetz Chayim’s Southwest Torah Institute held its first Israel experience trip, led by Rabbi Israel and Esther Becker.

Like the first, STI’s second trip “is going to be a self-discovery trip, because every Jew who goes to Israel automatically feels something; it’s in our genes. This was a promise from G-d to our father Abraham: this is where you’re going to find yourself,” says Rabbi Becker.

The 2011 trip focused on the transmission of Torah, says Becker, and this year’s trip will continue that theme but also focus on continuity, beginning with the era of the prophets.

In addition to visiting religious and historical sites, “we are also going to experience Israel through the kitchen,” he says.

For more details, including grant information, contact the Beckers at 747-7780 or ewbecker@me.com.

Congregation Bet Shalom’s trip, led by Cantor Avraham Alpert, will be a musical mission.

“We’ll be there for Shavuot and Shabbat, and we will choose synagogues that are exotic, musically,” says Alpert, as well as attending secular concerts. All of this will be “woven into a very power-packed taste of Israel,” he says. The cantor notes that this will be a true mission, with participants engaging in holy work, so there will be a tax-deductible element.

More information is at www.cbsaz.org/israel.

Temple Emanu-El’s Israel pilgrimage will be its fourth in the last eight years, says Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon.

Participants will connect with Temple’s Reform twinning congregation, Emet VeShalom in Nahariya, and will also spend a Shabbat with Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, the largest non-Orthodox congregation in Israel. Cohon will hold a daily morning service, whether it’s on top of the hotel in Tel Aviv overlooking the Mediterranean, at the ruins of Caesaria in a 2,000-year-old facility, on top of Masada or on the kibbutz guest house lawn.

The trip will include behind-the-scenes meetings with policy analysts at the Interdisciplinary Center in Tel Aviv. Along with tried-and-true Israel trip activities, such as a visit to an archaeological dig and a jeep tour of the Golan, there will be some unusual offerings, says Cohon, including a walk through Jerusalem in the footsteps of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

For more information, visit www.templeemanueltucson.org.

Congregation Anshei Israel’s trip emerged from a request for a repeat visit after CAI’s trip two years ago, says Rabbi Robert Eisen. This will be a family mission, with two girls becoming B’not Mitzvah. Seeing Israel through the eyes of multiple generations, he says, “you get a very full view of what the land is all about.”

Along with having people engage “with the land as it as and as we always have always dreamed and envisioned it,” the trip will be fun, says Eisen. “Very often the days are focused not on what we’re going to see but where we’re going to eat,” he says, since cuisine is a big part of getting to know the real Israel. He promises a stop at a mall food court as well as visits to archaeological digs, synagogues and historical sites.

For more information, visit www.caiaz.org.