Israel! Hiking! Water! The announcement of the Yam L’Yam Mission to Israel was immediately intriguing. This eight-day trip would include hiking across the Galilee, learning about Israel’s relationship to water, spending Shabbat with a host family, and seeing projects that our community (in cooperation with St. Paul, Minnesota) has supported in the area around Tiberias.
Nine signed up. For a small group, we were surprisingly diverse. With Talia, our amazing guide, and Dudu, our stalwart driver, we nine included Jewish and non-Jewish participants. Some were religiously observant; one had never been to Israel and a few had been many times; some were Hebrew speakers; we included native Milwaukeeans, transplants, and a Floridian; and we were multi-generational with an age span of some 35 years. Our dietary needs ran the gauntlet: omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive.
The Ramah Israel Institute organized our day-to-day program. After a day of adjustment, we began focusing on water, modern and ancient. We walked through an ancient aqueduct which contrasted with a modern desalination plant. We visited Caesarea’s ancient harbor. In the ancient amphitheater Joyce Gutzke spontaneously taught us an Israeli dance, music supplied by a mobile phone!
We officially began our “Yam L’Yam” or “sea to sea” from Achziv Beach at the Mediterranean, where we filled tiny bottles with sea water to hold until we reached the Sea of Galilee. Over the next three days we made the uphill hike from the Nahal Kziv Valley to the ruins of the Montfort Castle, built by Crusaders in the 13th century. We went around Mt. Meron and down the Nahal Amud to reach Tiberias. As Flo Carneol said about this part of the trip: “Being able to walk and explore the fantastic landscapes of hills, mountains, fertile plains, and water was breathtaking! The rugged beauty of the different areas of Galilee is a must see for all who enjoy nature and the outdoors!”
By this time, we had really become a cohesive group. Gina Teper pointed out “A huge plus was getting to know fellow Wisconsin folks whose paths I probably would never have crossed.” Now we separated and over Shabbat visited with families from the region. We reassembled and as a high point of the trip spilled our tiny bottles of water into Yam Kinneret. We spent our final two days touring the region, including the projects that our Milwaukee Jewish Federation supports.
A discussion point that came up often is that a trip like this that combines Israel’s natural beauty, modern technology, thousands of years of history, fantastic food, and the warmth of its people is a wonderful way to share the country. As Jay Beder said, “It was remarkable how, in a rather short time, we were able to get such a wide-ranging view of Israel and Israelis — everything from rugged hiking terrain to a desalination plant, from ancient ruins at Caesarea to kibbutz agriculture.” We as a group urge P2G and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation to again offer this kind of experience to a wide assortment of age groups and professions. This shared experience has enriched our understanding of Israel, provided opportunities for growth and new insights for each of us, and inspired ongoing commitment to Israel.
Partnership2Gether, or P2G, is a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Israel Center and the Jewish Agency for Israel. P2G sent a delegation of hikers on a program known as “Yam L’Yam” (“Sea to Sea”). They hiked portions of the trail from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee in the local partnership region, Sovev Kinneret. The trip took place Nov. 6-15, 2022. To learn more about P2G activities, visit MilwaukeeJewish.org/P2G or contact SusieR@MilwaukeeJewish.org