For 10 days – from April 30 until May 9 – I was one of 36 women from Ottawa’s Jewish community who travelled from Tel Aviv to Tiberius and from Tsfat to Jerusalem seeing Israel, listening to engaging and inspiring speakers, learning, connecting and bonding along the way.
The JWRP (Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project) MOMentum Trip brings Jewish women, with children under 18, together to “empower women to change the world through Jewish values that transform ourselves, our families, and our communities.” JWRP partners with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa to subsidize the ground costs of the journey.
The trip itself was action packed – we experienced the country and motivational lectures about the important roles women have played in the history of our people and about our vital roles as mothers, wives and community leaders.
We rode camels, toured Masada, covered ourselves in mud and floated in the Dead Sea, experienced the liveliness of Ben Yehuda Street at night, explored the Old City in Jerusalem, visited a mikvah, and hit the shuk whenever time permitted.
Shabbat was welcomed with candle lighting, and singing and dancing at the Kotel followed by a beautiful dinner in the company of around 400 of our sisters from across the globe.
It was an emotional journey for many as we wandered through Yad Vashem and heard heartbreaking stories of the Holocaust. The tears that fell throughout our journey were matched by much boisterous dancing and singing that would have easily embarrassed our kids at any bar mitzvah party back home. But that was part of the beauty of this trip. It was just about us and about forgetting – for a moment, anyway – about our responsibilities far away back home.
With the JWRP portion of our journey behind us, we headed north to Ottawa’s Partnership 2Gether region in the Upper Galilee Panhandle. Armed with overflowing bags of Canadian paraphernalia in the form of pencils, stickers and tattoos, we visited Einat HaGalil, a school partnered with Ottawa’s Temple Israel Hebrew School. We went next to Tel-Hai College, a technical school, where we enjoyed a molecular cooking class, before stopping at Beit Gesher at Vancouver House to play games with the developmentally disabled students at their after-school program. Last on the itinerary was a tour of Metulla, including a visit to the Israel/Lebanon border.
More than important lessons about Judaism and Israel, the JWRP trip allowed me to get to know Jewish women who I have known for years by name but never had the opportunity to make real connections with.
Now, with the jet lag finally behind me, I look forward to gathering with my new friends to bake challah with, enjoy a Shabbat dinner with, or just hang out as we continue in Ottawa on our year-long journey together.