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

The trip ended on Sunday.  The entire day was focused on how to end and wrap up this experience while ensuring the journey continues.  And it was AWESOME.  There was a great session in which the funding for Momentum was explained and one of the men on the trip offered a $100,000 match if we combined to give that much.  We exceeded the match.  If you aren’t aware, your favorite nonprofits can only do the work they do, can only provide the services they provide, with philanthropic support.  So just like we supported Momentum because of the impact of the trip, I urge you to support the nonprofits whose work you value and appreciate.

Keith on the beach.

One of the highlights for me today was in the afternoon when most of our group went shopping on Ben Yehuda Street and then went for a late lunch to CRAVE in Machane Yehuda.  This Kosher burger place offers amazing food including bacon (from lamb) cheeseburgers (vegan cheese) and the most amazing brisket bites I have ever had.  We hung out, ate, laughed, and enjoyed being together in the shuk and in Israel.  It really shows how much we have bonded this week and how much we enjoy each other’s company.

The closing banquet had outstanding food (I was too full from lunch to eat) and a great program.  We ended with a rousing singing of Am Yisrael Chai. 

If you’ve never heard over 160 men screaming “Am Yisrael Chai’ at the top of their lungs, let me tell you, it’s amazing.  It’s inspiring.  And it’s exciting.  It’s also incredibly meaningful. 

We said our goodbyes, gave lots of hugs to people from Orlando that we’ll see soon and people from around the country and in Israel that we won’t, and boarded buses for either the airport or Tel Aviv.  I extended my trip by an additional day and headed to Ir Yamim with my friend Remo to stay at his parents house.  We got there and crashed, exhausted from the week.

In the morning, we sat on the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying the beauty.  We went for coffee and breakfast at a local café and walked the beach.  We sat and had another coffee at a café on the beach.  And we continued walking the beach back to the condo.  It was an incredible start to the day.  We too his parents car to Netanya just up the road and walked around exploring, got Boba Tea, and headed off to our real plan for the day – horseback riding on the beach.

At the ranch.

We were heading to a ranch just north of Netanya.  It was off some serious back roads and when we got there, I was stunned at the beauty of the ranch and just how many horses were there.  They prepped us for our ride, got us our horses, and off we went with our guide.  For the next 90 minutes we rode all over the beach, back roads, and even got to have the horses run a little bit.  We talked to our guide, Shiloh, and learned that he was born in Jerusalem and was Haredi (very observant) growing up but left that life for the connection he felt with the horses.  It was exhilarating and fun.  I could have kept riding for another 90 minutes.  I have been to Israel 20 times and I have never gone horseback riding on the beach before.  I can promise you this won’t be the last time.

Enjoying the ride.

We left the ranch and headed to a restaurant on the beach where we had amazing hummus and eggplant.  The fish for dinner was excellent and the view of the sea was exquisite.  The cool weather, wind, and sunset filled my heart with joy and love for this country.  A perfect ending to the day and this visit.  Because Remo had a business call on the drive home, I got to drive.  While I have been here many times, I have never driven in Israel before so I got another new experience.  Luckily traffic was light and the other drivers weren’t too bad and we arrived safely in time to get a quick rest before heading to the airport and my 1 am flight home.

This has been a truly exceptional trip and I will share my overall thoughts in one last post but not here.  Momentum provides a great way to visit Israel and to explore yourself.  Israel is an amazing country that can nourish your soul.  I haven’t even left for the airport yet and I’m already exciting and thinking about my next trip in 2023.  I hope you come with me on that trip and we can explore Israel together.