Local Jewish community members to visit Israel
It was late January 2012 when some members of the local Jewish community began planning a trip to Israel through the Jewish Federations of North America. More than 40 people signed up, some of whom would be visiting for the first time and others who had been there before. Their departure date: Monday, Nov. 26.
Then, earlier this month, Israel launched strikes onto the Gaza Strip, hoping to end rocket attacks on its own territory from Gaza, which has been ruled by an Islamist militant group that denies Israel's right to exist. The group, Hamas, responded with more rockets, and suddenly the number of people signed up for the trip began to drop off.
It's down to 24 now, but with a ceasefire declared on Wednesday, the trip is now approved by the federation, and two dozen locals are planning to depart early Monday morning from B'Nai Sholom Congregation. They're scheduled to return on Dec. 6, said Linda Klein, chairwoman of the mission.
"A few days ago, we thought we'd have to cancel, but with ceasefire comes trip," she said.
They'll be crisscrossing two-thirds of the country visiting Dimona, the Sea of Galilee, Safed, the Ruins of Caesarea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and more.
"We will see some ancient things, some not-so-ancient things and some modern things," Klein said.
Those making the trip include people in their 30s up through their 70s, she said. Among them will be Rabbi Jean Eglinton, who has been offering a Saturday class to help the travelers prepare. They've been learning not only logistics -- about what to bring, the money and the transportation there -- but also information about the history and significance of what they will be seeing.
Klein said the tourists have dubbed their trip "Huntington Goes to Israel" and have special blue ballcaps for the journey with the outline of West Virginia and of Israel to show their pride.
"We are pleased and pleasantly surprised at the people who are still coming, and we're going to have a great time," she said.