ROCKLEIGH, NJ — Those dreaming of seeing Israel returned this week from a once-in-a-lifetime trip organized by the Jewish Home at Rockleigh Russ Berrie Home for Jewish Living.
“For some, it was their first time, and for some they never thought they would be able to do it again,” said Ezra HaLevi, the home's director of communications and outreach.
Some are well into their 80s, HaLevi said.
“No one was denied participation because of finances,” said Susan Lilly, a licensed social worker and director of care management services. "But there were meetings and more meetings, and they had to exercise to prepare for the trip."
Altogether, the trip -- a first for the organization -- took more than a year to organize. Participants had walk and climb in preparation, and were each assigned a staffer during the Oct. 18-28 excursion. They “had lunch and a relaxing float in the unsinkable waters of the Dead Sea before returning to Jerusalem,” wrote Dan Hotel, in a post from their blog.
Before leaving Rockleigh, the participants erected replicas of the Western Wall. Loved ones added their own notes, and the travelers took those to the real wall in Israel.
"They went to a facility for Israeli wounded soldiers who play basketball in wheelchairs," HaLevi said. "It's in Day 5 of their blog. They had an intergenerational experience with the men, and understand how to overcome anything."
All who went will share their experiences with others in a panel discussion later this year.
“This event will have reverberations for months, I think,” HaLevi said.
“One thing that struck me about this organization is the pace and willingness in which something goes from an idea to an action -- no matter what a person's seniority is here," he said. "It is adopted by leadership a week later or a month later. They are open to new ideas. If is going on in the world, it should be going on here.”
For information on the travelers' blog, go to: https://jewishhome.smugmug.com/IsraelMission