The leap to go to Israel for the first time with Momentum this July was made possible by; excellent babysitters, planes, trains, automobiles, the Jewish Federation of Sarasota and the lure of the most incredible hummus I would ever taste. My boss encouraged me to go and told me it would be, “the trip of a lifetime”. In truth my expectations were low, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and heard a rumor I might find some really unusual restroom facilities. This was not a vacation in which we would escape from the world; it was a skillfully planned opportunity to create real connections for Jewish mothers from Sarasota (many who had barely met before) and beyond.
The experience of being in Israel itself was for me, dazzling. The care and thought designed to honor our important work as moms, and on top of all the other perks of such a trip—to give us practical tools to return with. It was as if Momentum and Israel were mothering us. There were 16 of us in the Sarasota group and several similar sized groups from South Florida, Miami, Chicago, NYC, Israel, Thornhill & Toronto, Ontario—when we were all together for major seminars or celebrations, it was more than 100 Jewish women.
Sarasota donned green trucker hats with ‘SRQ’ embroidered on the front and hit the ground running with our knowledgeable tour guides—through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, Masada, the Dead Sea etc…We engaged with our ancestors, who dreamed and prayed for the nation of Israel for thousands of years. We walked in silence to the Kotel, where at sundown the wall was still warm to the touch.
The spiritual energy of Israel was complimented with daily opportunities to reflect in our journals and seminars from a variety of speakers on topics ranging from: courage, relationships, body image, the power of prayer and always served with refreshments and plenty of laughs. We toured a Mikvah in Tzvat where we met a real life Mary Poppins! During our transitions between places our tour bus was alive with budding new friendships as we mingled together and with other groups, exchanged childhood stories and received good quality serenading over the audio system.
Jerusalem was abundant with Hashgacha Pratit or Divine Providence moments. We called these “HP moments” for short. These HP moments tilted at us unbidden, like cloud bursts of synchronicity as if to say, we were exactly where we needed to be. My HP moment looked a little different than the others and happened during our tour of the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Our tour guide Rabbi Ken Spiro said, “You know we should be proud of being Jewish. It isn’t always comfortable, but it is always meaningful”.
I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that in that moment before going outside and seeing a view of Israel with trees fluttering in the wind. The Momentum women’s trip philosophy/motto/hashtag is that “it starts with women”. If you inspire a woman, you inspire a family, when you inspire enough families you inspire a community and so on. The challenges of navigating parenting and practicing Jewish values with grace and grit is not work cut out for one person, we need human connection and support. For the next year our group will meet monthly and continue the discussions relevant to embodying Jewish values as mother and women. To put it simply I have returned from Israel with greater solidarity, an expanded sense of goodness in people, more appreciation for Shabbat with my family and more questions than ever.