407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

Today began with meeting my friend Leor Sinai for coffee.  It was so good to catch up and I look forward to finding ways to work together in the future.

After coffee, my friends Avi and Irit Geva picked me up to show me Moshav life.  We drove north to Kfar Hayim, where they introduced me to their friend Nachman and his family who live on the Moshav and grow flowers.

It was amazing learning about how they grow and sell massive amounts of flowers all over the world.  I got to see the old cow shed from when they raised cows.  Six cows and one horse were in the shed—and per Avi, one donkey (he meant Nachman and laughed loudly as he said that).  I also got a great picture with Nachman (yes, he does look a little like David Crosby!).

Keith with Nachman.

We drove south to Bitzaron, the moshav where Irit and Avi live.  We stopped in Gedera for lunch.  The salads were amazing and I got full just eating them.  Gedera was founded in 1884, 64 years before the founding of the State of Israel!

Before going to their home, we stopped at the ‘ranch’ that Irit manages.  It is 1,600 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) and was incredible to see.  They grow grapes for vineyards (green and red/purple), wheat, broccoli, cauliflower, almonds, and watermelons (they grow watermelon to harvest the seeds).  It was truly magnificent looking out at the world brought to life by the pioneers of the land.  Abi ripped off a head of broccoli and bit in—amazingly fresh.  It’s why the produce in Israel is so incredible.  They also showed me the bomb shelter they must have because terrorists in Gaza fire rockets that land near them.  We weren’t that close to Gaza—just outside Ashdod, 45 minutes from Tel Aviv.

We went to their home on the moshav to relax and talk.  They dropped me off at the airport to meet my JCC colleagues from around the country that are joining us for the next 11 days of intentional exploration and work. This includes my own colleagues Melissa Youngblood and Fara Pensky Gold.

As we drive south to Mitzpe Ramon, I am filled with gratitude for those pioneers who created the State of Israel.  From the early agricultural pioneers who created green and life from nothing, to those who built the amazing city of Tel Aviv from sand dunes in the early 1900s.

A thriving Israeli farm.

Israel is truly an amazing country that can’t be easily explained and must be truly experienced.  I’m excited for the next 11 days and what we will see and experience.