Sponsored trips to Israel for teenagers and young adults who have never been to the Jewish state are more popular than ever. That gave the folks at the Jewish National Fund pause: Where’s the trip for older people who want to visit Israel but maybe can’t afford the full ride?
A grant from the Los Angeles–based Jesse Simon Charitable Foundation is helping to make that trip a reality.
The L’dor V’dor Israel Experience, now registering participants for its first mission Feb. 19-28, 2012, offers people 50 and older who have never been to Israel (or who haven’t visited in the last 10 years) the opportunity to tour the Holy Land with JNF for 10 days.
Participants will visit major sites and cities, talk with Israeli newsmakers and trek to less-visited places to see the results of JNF’s environmental and infrastructure work.
“Over the years, so many older people have seen these trips for young people and said ‘I wish I could have a similar experience,’ ” said Aaron Parker, JNF’s regional director for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. “The need seemed self-evident. And the response we’ve gotten so far has been overwhelming.”
Cost for the mission is a subsidized $750. Airfare is not included. As of Aug. 17, the 40-person group tour was about 75 percent full.
The itinerary is peppered with sights and stops not found on many standard tours. One morning, the group will visit the Atlit “Illegal” Immigration Camp, on the coast south of Haifa, where more than 120,000 Jewish immigrants to Israel were detained between 1934 and 1948 by the British Mandate (JNF helped restore the camp in partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites).
That same day, a tour of the Carmel Forest will give visitors a firsthand look at the destruction of 5 million trees from the 2010 fires, with an expert from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, JNF’s partner in environmental work, explaining efforts to repair the damage.
“There’s so much significant work going on,” said Parker. “We want people to see what we’re doing in the Negev, the environmental work we’re doing with water and reservoirs, recycling, innovative farming techniques. We’re going to visit new communities — places where JNF is helping to build towns from scratch.”
Visits to sites not related to the JNF include a morning exploring the Golan Heights and a tour of the Ramon air force base in Mitzpe Ramon, followed by lunch with Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The group also will see Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheva, with an optional side trip to Masada and the Dead Sea.
With this year’s mission almost full, Parker said plans for the next one — in 2013 — already are under way.
“We’re so excited to be able to offer something like this,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”
For more information on the L’dor V’dor Israel Experience, visit www.jnf.org/travel or call JNF’s Northern California and Pacific Northwest regional office at (415) 677-9600.