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Mission to Israel 2013

Be the change that you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Ghandi

About seven months ago, I decided that I wanted to celebrate my 36th birthday with a super special trip—one that I had never take before. Unlike many families and members in our community, I had NEVER, yes NEVER been to Israel.

That is until this past December 2013.

I wasn’t quite sure what the mission was, other than that I knew it was a trip that toured part of Israel with our shul Rabbi and his Rebbetzin. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a life-changing eight-day event, and share the experience with many folks I had never met before.

Founded in 2002 by Moishe Posner and Larry Zeifman, two Brotherhood members, along with the BAYT’s founding Rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Taub, and The BAYT Brotherhood Mission Trip to Israel. Once annually, the Brotherhood Mission sets out a huge itinerary to step foot in and connect with little-known, smaller communities in Israel, spreading the word and the message that we members of the BAYT are here to help and show our support. Before the trip starts, there is intense planning, meetings and preparation. This year over 12 bags of clothing and winter coats were donated by an anonymous donor who on a yearly basis have taken this upon themselves to donate sometimes up to 17-18 bags of clothing. The only reason for the decline in bags being sent to Israel is that the airlines have refused to accept so many at times.

So here I was the Woman on a Mission. I had only signed up for three out of the 8 days of the mission. To say our itinerary was jam-packed was an understatement and the thought of tackling the bucket list full of venues and pit stops felt like an adventure I was ready to attack.   Keeping up with this group should have come with a warning—prepare yourself for complete exhaustion and fun for an entire week!

Many people have heard that I joined the BAYT mission this past year and have asked me what my most favourite part of the trip was.

Honestly, I could not possibly pick just one.

Perhaps by reading some of the highlights of our mission, you can see why it’s impossible to pick:

Our first visit was to Lod, a city that has developed a bit of a bad reputation. We caught up with some former BAYT members who lived in Thornhill as Shlichim and have now chosen to “take back” a town that has turned sour. With two other couples they host 40 families = over 200 people each and every week to ensure they have a Shabbat to attend to at the local shul.

We continued on to Nazareth City council where their mayor—who was nothing like ours from Toronto—was a true gentleman. He is focused on bringing the Jews back to his town, as it has become full of Arabs, which isn’t good for the economy and real estate. He has received financial support to build affordable new housing communities that will be gated—his goal is to convince Charedi families to come and build their homes in his community. 

We visited the Elite Chocolate Factory. Pssst. You should speak to the Rav about this pit stop, it was one of his favorites.

We davened at “The House of Love and Prayer.” Yes, you read that correctly! The House of Love and Prayer was Carlebach-style minyan that took two hours to daven because the service included both live music and dancing.

We took a walking tour in the Galil, complete with stunning picturesque views of the mountain named Gamal, aptly named for its Camel-like shape and vultures flying just above us.

We went to the Shofar factory, whose owner felt a calling as a young child to commence making shofars. He even made our Rabbi his very own custom-made shofar right in front of us—and it even came with some free lessons. The Shofar factory was a tough smell to take in and I was more impressed with the growing Etrogim and Pamelo trees that he had in his front yard.  With drips of rain leaking into our bus, we commenced our trip to Shiloh, a sometimes forgotten small town, but an extremely important one within our Jewish history. With gorgeous views of mountain tops and wine vineyards all around, I couldn’t help but take so many pictures. Being able to stand and see areas of where the Shoftim once stood, and to be where the holy Mishkan was once intact was just amazing. It was truly a surreal moment for me, trying to depict that thousands of years ago what historical moments took place in the very same spots we were standing.

It was a good thing a wine tour was next because boy did I need a drink. I’ve never been a wine drinker, truthfully, but that didn’t stop my excitement for the wine tasting up next at the Gvaot winery in Shiloh. After a few drinks, giggles (from Marcy), and jokes it was off to the next stop.

We then went to Sussya, a great little Yishuv. In one area of Sussya where we visited, each Shabbat possesses a risk to the Jewish community there. They have set up small caravans, (trailer-like homes- Yes there are such things as Jewish Trailer Park Folk) and where each Shabbat, police are called out to stop the rock throwing and damage caused by the Arab settlers who are just causing trouble for no reason. Each of the folks we met there truly felt a calling to move to Israel, to make a better life for their children, and have committed themselves to their communities and to the future of Eretz Yisrael.

Our journey continued on and included: Maarat Hamachpela, delivering breakfast treats daily to the Soldiers, meeting with the Soldiers & Army members who are stationed north protecting our borders, visiting the historical grounds of Tzipori, a walking tour of the new wing in the Rambam Hospital, strolling in Haifa near the Buddha gardens, Motzai Shabbat music with David Moshe, touring the Knesset where Stephen Harper was most recently greeted, meeting Knesset member Dov Lipman and speaking to him about his challenges and goals, going to the Techeylet Factory and—one of my most favourites—an impromptu pit stop to a lookout point of the Kinneret where Zemirot were sung as we watched the sun go down.

If there’s one thing I do hope I have accomplished on this written mission, it is that I have translated the passion I felt during the duration of the trip and that perhaps I have changed your thoughts or sparked some interest in your involvement with the BAYT Brotherhood missions in the future.

I’d like to personally thank Marcee (and Rosie) for taking me under their wings from day one. To Larry (and Sue) for ensuring I was always taken care of and Moishe (and Nicole) who made sure that I was always laughing and enjoying the ride along the way. And a special Yasher Koach to Rabbi Korobkin and Karen for those quick tidbits of information that I never got in high school and being the source to go to continuously. Their humbleness and guidance are truly admirable. 

Wishing all my mission family a very happy and healthy Passover.

Submitted by:  Sonya Kaplan

Sun, February 23 2020 28 Shevat 5780