Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Israel With My Son Ilan

There is no more powerful classroom than the classroom of life experiences. This is why I have always believed in travelling with my kids as much as possible, allowing them to experience, learn and see the world with their own eyes. Peni and I are big believers in life experiences. This is why we have taken our kids on so many trips, locally in California as well as family trips to Israel, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. (I've probably left something out!).

This past Monday afternoon, my son Ilan and I arrived in Israel. Ilan is 10 (almost 11), and this is his fifth trip to Israel. By comparison, when I was his age, I had yet to step foot in the Holy Land! So, why is this trip different than Ilan's four previous trips to Israel? Because this trip is all about him.

Four years ago, I did something similar with my daughter Shira, who was also 10 at the time. Shira had just raised an incredible $24,000 to benefit Israeli children in the northern town of Shlomi, who had been hit hard during the summer of 2006 Lebanon War. Shira and I came to Israel to meet the kids, and she had arranged for 350 of them to attend the Festigal, Israel's annual kid's show extravaganza. We decided to join the kids, and we also took advantage of the trip to Israel to visit various people, places and things. That trip included visits with family, a night with the Shlomi kids at the Festigal, and dinner with Israeli author Amos Oz and his wife Nili in their Tel Aviv apartment. We did visit some sites, but Shira was thrilled to meet lots of people, especially as they recognized her from the color photo and write-up in Israel's Yediot Acharonot newspaper.

Ilan had a different itinerary in mind. "What would you like to do on your personal trip to Israel with Daddy?" I asked him.  "Hikes, archaeological sites, more hikes, and some more archaeology." Ilan loves ancient history, and he loves adventures. Is there any better place in the world that combines these two experiences than Israel? So, here we are, off to an adventure through Israel's canyons, riverbeds and antiquities! We will visit the sites of ancient Jerusalem, and then are off to hike and journey through the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea Region, the Galilee, the Golan Heights, play in the snow on the Hermon, visit the coast and Tel Aviv, and travel down to the Negev for more hikes. We have been here a few days, and if you want to follow our trip, you will have to go to the special blog site that Ilan set up as  trip journal There you can see photos and follow our adventures through Israel.

My purpose of this post is to encourgage parents that if you want to help build a positive Jewish identity for your kids, there is nothing better than showing them Israel yourself. Show them how much fun Israel is, how, cool, hip, ancient, modern, tasty and inspirational this amazing country of ours is. In just a few days, I have seen a deep impact on Ilan -- his love for Israel, his spiritually charged praying at minyan every morning, our Torah study together, and his remarks on how amazed he is with the survival of Israel and the Jewish people --  all of this is strengthened here in Israel. Enjoy these photos below, and don't forget to check out Ilan's blog for more. For now, let me only encourage you: if you are looking to take your kids on a really fun trip, injected with meaning, filled with adventure and abounding in diversity -- forget Hawaii or other typical vacation spots -- go to Israel -- the experience of a lifetime, again and again!!!