A Celebration of Partnership and Unity
Jewish Federation of San Diego recently brought together 225 participants from the local Jewish community for a week-long trip to Israel. Once there, the group traveled on six buses, exploring the country and taking part in various activities and events. From food tours to team building activities, the trip created a sense of community and celebration. The highlight of the trip was the Partnership Day, which marked 25 years of official partnership between San Diego and Sha’ar Hanegev, a region in southern Israel.
One of the first events was an opening ceremony overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. The group took in stunning views of this ancient city. On food tours in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, participants sampled the diverse flavors of Israel and experienced the country’s vibrant culinary scene. Team building activities strengthened the camaraderie between the travelers. These activities included challenges and games that required collaboration and cooperation, encouraging participants to work together towards common goals.
A highlight of the trip was a meeting with Doron Almog, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Almog is one of the most important voices in Israel today, and he shared insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the country today.
Partnership Day was especially moving and significant as they visited different kibbutzim in Sha’ar Hanegev (a kibbutz is a type of communal settlement where members work together and share resources). The tours of these kibbutzim provided a unique glimpse into this aspect of traditional Israeli society. The day included home-hosted lunches where participants interacted with the local community.
The participants attended the dedication of a new sports and cultural center, partially funded by Federation. The basketball court was named for Michael Jeser, former CEO of Federation, who tragically passed away in 2021. His wife and young daughter attended the dedication ceremony. The day ended with San Diegans and Sha’ar HaNegev residents marking the Jewish holiday of Lag B’omer at a traditional bonfire celebration.
San Diegans gained a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our friends living in Sha’ar Hanegev, including rocket attacks residents sometimes experience from Gaza. In fact, just after the tour left, the Israel Defense Forces launched an operation in the West Bank; anticipating a response, Sha’ar HaNegev residents had to stay near protective shelters and school was canceled. This reality contrasted the beauty of the region with the complexity of life there.
The CommUNITY Trip was an experience that captured the vibrancy of Israel – the successes, the challenges and the complexities of the country and the people. One of Federation’s strategic priorities is to strengthen our local community’s connection to Israel on a people-to-people level. Amid all the learning experiences and tours, the personal connections developed amongst each other and with Israelis will last a lifetime. The group returned to San Diego more committed to their work than ever before.