I just got this email from the Jewish National Fund, the Zionist organization responsible for buying up land for Jews in Israel and Palestine. The singles trip, “looking for love in the shadow of war,” took place in Israel and Palestine and the Golan from July 12-17 or so, and was also promoted by JDate, the online Jewish dating service whose mission statement is careful not to mention Israel.
LOOKING FOR LOVE IN THE SHADOW OF WAR
JNF-JDate Singles Mission to Israel Proves Memorable
By: Leiba Chaya David
JNF-JDate singles along Israeli-Syrian border
On a hot, windy July day, 24 young people dared to go where most of their peers would not – on a tour of Israel during a time of war. Despite the tense security situation, these young men and women went ahead with their summer plans – as participants in the first-ever JNF-JDate Singles Trip to Israel.
The summer tour was designed with dynamic 30- and 40-somethings in mind – a unique exploration of Israel though the lens of the country’s burgeoning culinary scene, rugged landscapes, important historical sites, and forward-thinking leaders. The original schedule was to have taken participants to the trendy neighborhoods and clubs of Tel Aviv, the wide expanses of the Negev, the hi-tech center of the Gush Dan region, and to the beach for bike riding and water sports. The itinerary was altered significantly when Operation Protective Edge broke out.
For many, the change in plans served to enrich the trip experience. Said one participant from New York: “Because we were unable to go to some of the typical tourist sites in the center and the south, we got a chance to see another side of Israel. The main sites are important too, but this way we felt like we were really getting to know the country and its people.”
Their five-day alternative itinerary took them off the beaten path to places like Maalot, Rosh Hanikra, and a small eco-village called Klil. On the third day of the trip, the group was joined by seven young people who recently made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Amir, originally from Seattle, expressed relief at the chance to get out of rocket-barraged Tel Aviv for the day. “I am also happy to meet people my age, and to tell them what it is like to be a young, single professional here in Israel. It’s not so different,” he said with a smile.
The group was treated to an adventurous jeep ride through the picturesque Golan Heights. A highlight of the informative two-hour tour was the stop at an army outpost at the edge of the buffer zone between Israel and Syria, where participants reflected on the complexity of the Syrian civil war and how it affects Israel today. Walking back to the jeeps, in pairs and small groups, they discussed politics and religion.
This is exactly what JNF and JDate envisioned for this trip, recognizing a need among singles in the 30-45 year-old age range for a trip to the Holy Land that is both a fun vacation and a meaningful experience.
Everywhere they went, they were treated to excellent Israeli fare, often in beautiful (and occasionally romantic) settings. On the day of the jeep ride, the group brushed off the dust from their clothes and stepped into the cool Golan Heights Winery to continue their thoughtful discussions over fine food and award-winning vintages.
Experiencing Israel Together – More than Just a Bus Ride
Irrespective of the current conflict, Israel is an excellent backdrop for forming relationships. Exploring history and spirituality in the Jewish homeland can be a very moving experience; sharing this personal experience with like-minded peers often creates immediate and powerful bonds. Furthermore, Israel’s tapestry of contrasts and contradictions is highly thought-provoking. Participants found themselves exchanging ideas and opinions on a level that the average singles trip often avoids.
The tenuous security situation created an especially fertile ground for meaningful interaction. As Lori, a participant from New Jersey, remarked, “Over half of the original group cancelled. On this kind of trip, it can be overwhelming to connect one-on-one in a large group. But touring with a smaller group, with everyone’s emotions running extra high, made it a much more intimate experience.”
Will this “intimate experience” lead to something more serious between trip participants? Only time will tell…
With the trip now over, most of the group has returned to their busy individual lives back in the US. Yet those five days together – simultaneously under the shadow of war while soaking up the riches of Israel’s complex culture and history – inevitably brought these individuals closer and reaffirmed their shared pride in their Jewish faith and identity.into the cool Golan Heights Winery to continue their thoughtful discussions over fine food and award-winning vintages.