Israeli Chronicles — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
Explore the Hidden Treasures of Israel From Your Living Room with Federation
“We think this will be a really fun and unique approach to Israel engagement,” said Jason Schapera, “especially since COVID-19 has put a hold on a lot of what we’ve been able to do.” Schapera is the Chair of the Israel & Overseas Programming Committee at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and he’s talking about a new series which will allow community members to travel to Israel from the comfort of their own living rooms. “Zoom fatigue is real,” he said, “and people can quickly tire of sitting in front of the screen for work, for school, and for socializing. That’s why we’ve worked really hard to develop something different—something that will really give people a sense of refreshment and engagement that other virtual programming might not.”
Schapera explained that a lot of research went into developing something that would appeal to the members of the Cincinnati Jewish community. “We had to shift gears from our usual programming methods,” he said. “With lockdowns due to COVID, and not having a shaliach (senior emissary) this year, we had to look for ways of engagement, and find a way of bringing together the community and presenting our programming that would be accessible, safe, and interesting. It was a big goal.”
“Before deciding on this series,” explained Jan Evans, Director of Strategic Impact at the Jewish Federation, “we conducted a survey of our target audience and learned that they were interested in such a wide range of topics—from arts and culture, food, science and technology, the environment, politics, and the diversity of Israeli society. From there we put together committees, we brainstormed, and we researched a lot.”
Ultimately, it was decided to develop a virtual tour of the Israel Trail with the assistance of Israeli tour guide Karmit Arbel. “The theme of the program is Hidden Treasures,” explained Schapera. “Community members will be able to enjoy a fresh, unique peek into Israel’s unconventional, off-the-beaten path experiences. We really wanted to highlight the places and things even the most seasoned Israel traveler may not know about.”
Evans added, “I think our audience will find Karmit both charming and authentic. Being a guide is her passion, and she brings her own personal stories and experiences into her presentation. Her personal touch, along with the diversity of the subject matter, will appeal to those who are really curious about Israel and interested in exploring sites that aren’t the typical tourist destinations.”
The program will be real-time and interactive, Schapera explained. “There will be opportunities to interact with Karmit along with the people she’s introducing us to live, verses a lot of pre-recorded videos.” Those who register early will receive items to go along with each leg of the virtual tour so they can experience some of what is happening in each location. Things like Israeli couscous, ptitim, recipes, and Moroccan cookies. Participants will be able to pick the items up beforehand. In addition, those who complete at least four sessions will receive a package of specially curated souvenirs. “We want participants to have a tangible keepsake, something to remember our trip. It’s also an opportunity to make these online experiences physical and present.”
The tour begins on Sunday, June 6 at 11:00 a.m. with the group meeting virtually at Ben Gurion Airport, where it will board a flight south over the machteshim to Ilan Ramon Airport. After snorkeling in the Red Sea, the group will continue to the Aravah Institute in Ketura, where it will meet one of its scholars. Next, the group will visit an artist colony in Zukim and meet the inspiring Noa Zer. Then it will hop on a Jeep to Mount Carcom, a unique archeological site that was recognized by the Vatican as Mount Sinai. The day ends with enjoying a traditional Moroccan dinner, prepared by the “Cooking Ladies” of Yerucham.
“Our goal is that our participants will get a chance to experience sides and aspects of Israel that they wouldn’t normally,” said Schapera. “We want to introduce them to things that they might not know about.”
Tours continue one Sunday per month through December. “We hope people find the convenience of an in-home program appealing,” said Evans. “We want to plant the seeds for future interest in Israeli engagement.”
When asked about what else the series has in store for its travelers, Schapera smiled and said, “I don’t want to spoil too many of the things that we’re going to be doing. We want to have surprises. Those surprises are what people should be looking forward to as part of this experience.”
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