Journey Home to Israel
2008 Tour Journal
Daily Journal for Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Wednesday’s hectic schedule for participants in The Fellowship’s 2008 Journey Home Tour included a breakfast talk by David Baker, senior foreign press coordinator for the Israel Prime Minister’s Office; a lunch discussion with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder/president of the IFCJ; a visit to a Fellowship project giving hope to the elderly, and a memorable, steep walk down Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
“We need a steady stream of people to encourage us,” stressed Baker, a native of East Queens, N.Y., who has lived in Israel 23 years. “Sometimes you [Americans] come to hold our hand, and we appreciate that. Sometimes you come to offer the strength of support, and we appreciate that.”
Fellowship supporters answered with a resounding “No!” when Baker asked, “Will you ever abandon Israel?” Next he asked, “Can we count on you in thick and thin?” The answer was a predictable and loud “Yes.”
Journey Home participants and Yael Eckstein, daughter of Rabbi Eckstein, boarded buses to travel to Lifeline for the Elderly, a project sponsored by The Fellowship to provide Jerusalem’s needy elderly and disabled with the opportunity to remain active as contributing members of society.
There, five mornings each week, hundreds of elderly are shuttled to the quaint ivy-covered stone complex to participate in stimulating and creative work opportunities in a variety of artistic workshops producing beautiful, professional-quality handmade Judaica and craft items, which then are sold in the project’s bustling gift shop. Visitors watched as the elderly painstakingly painted note cards and journals, created ceramic figurines, sewed banners, and strung beads for jewelry.
In addition to providing a place where the elderly can interact with others and feel the life-affirming satisfaction of being productive, Lifeline for the Elderly provides its artisans with a stipend and benefits which include transportation costs, a daily hot lunch, and dental and eyeglass allowance.
Fellowship supporters Geraldine Fields and Regina Stone, who developed a similar program for the elderly in their hometown of Emerson, Ky., were captivated by the visit, saying they easily could have spent an entire day watching the elderly enjoy being productive.
Six hours after the election of Barack Obama became known in Israel, Rabbi Eckstein expressed his concern about the future of American-Israeli relations given that both countries will have new leadership early next year. He said that U.S. politics will move to a more liberal position, and predicted that Benjamin Nentanyahu will be elected Israeli’s new Prime Minister. “We just don’t know [what will happen],” the rabbi said, adding, “We have to give Obama a chance.”
Following a short visit to the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet, Fellowship visitors headed to a hill overlooking Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and sang “Silent Night.” Next was a walk down the Mount of Olives, where Christians believe the Messiah will return; a first-hand look at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before being taken to Pilate; and the domed Chapel of Ascension, the traditional location from which Jesus ascended into heaven.
Blood donors: Wednesday night, many Fellowship supporters donated blood to Israel’s version of the Red Cross.
Shopping fun: During the tour’s first serious shopping spree at Jerusalem Gates, a shop a block from IFCJ’s Jerusalem offices, supporters purchased everything from postcards, key chains and Dead Sea hand cream to ancient coins and pottery.
Thursday’s itinerary: Today buses head to the Dead Sea and Masada, Israel’s most acclaimed fortress.Read the next Journal page
Garden of Gethsemane
Orthodox Jew praying at the prophet Samuel's tomb
Temple Mount from Mount of Olives
Tour member Sandra Collins with Yael Eckstein at Samuel's tomb
Young boy with sheep outside of Bethlehem