By Samantha Mazuz, Coordinator of Teen & Young Adult Services, Barshop Jewish Community Center of San Antonio

Monday, February 23, 2015

Living in Israel, traveling throughout the country numerous times, and leading Birthright Israel trips, one would think my connection to all parts of my homeland is strong and meaningful. However, part of having a connection with people, forming real memories on the land, and understanding its importance truly brings you much closer to the place.

San Antonio, just like other cities in America and across the world, has a “partner” city with Israel. Ours is the region of the Western Galilee, and we share that with 12 other cities. During my journey this time to Israel my main focus was to travel and learn with other Hillel Senior Professionals; however, knowing I would be staying longer then the anticipated organized trip to see family and friends, it was a must for me to visit this region of the country that we call our sister. Before my trip, I reached out to the professionals that manage the special connections and relationships with the region, and they eagerly planned for me a full day itinerary to visit, learn, and meet the people that make this partnership so special. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! I rented a car for a day of exploration and growth. My words cannot express the gratitude I have for the professionals who made my day so special, and the warmth and welcoming feeling they gave me was indescribable. It was remarkable to see how areas outside of the center of Israel operate, how the children are all active in after school activities and sports, how culture and arts are so important, and how community is the root of togetherness, which I feel comes straight from community living on the Moshavim and Kibbutzim there.

During my visit, I met with Heidi Benish who is in charge of Missions and Marketing, Miri Johnson who works as a coordinator of the Israel Education team, Avia Zimran the chair of the Israel Education task force, Gal Mansur who is the Athletic Director in the community center of Matte Asher, and finally a number of representatives from the newly created Young Adult Forum. Each of these people had such a connection to the place they live and a strong purpose in making sure relationships are made, not just in Israel but with people from all of the partnership cities. Everyone I met wanted my personal cell phone number, and many even invited me back with my husband to spend some time in their own homes with their families.

I learned about the many programs that are available for people from our area to travel to our sister region and have a meaningful experience not just being there, but really feeling a part of a much larger community. I would encourage anyone traveling from our city to spend some time in our partnership region to meet the people, connect to the land, and learn a whole lot.

The Hebrew word Ach’rai’yoot means responsibility. The quote from the Mishnah “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?” (Michnah, Nezikin, Avot, 1:14) reminds me of our partnership, and the importance of sustaining these meaningful relationships. Even though we don’t physically live in Israel on the land we call our home, we are still responsible for it and the people that do live there.




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23 Apr 2015 / 4 Iyar 5775 0