Sharing Our Love of Israel:
Three Baltimoreans Speak Up

As Israel marks its 75th anniversary, we approached three members of the community to reflect on their earliest recollections of the country and how its people have left an indelible impression on them over the years. Join us as we explore their personal experiences and celebrate the enduring influence of Israel on their lives. 

tree planting

Searle Mitnick 

In December 1971, Deborah and I made our first visit to Israel. It was quiet, peaceful and incredibly moving. It was the period between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. On the surface at least, everyone was getting along. We walked comfortably through the shuk (market) in the Old City. We visited the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  

Over the years, I’ve been back five more times and Deborah two. Unfortunately, on many of these trips, there was great tension in the country. The most was on a Beth Tfiloh solidarity mission during the second intifada. We needed armed escorts everywhere. 

What inspires me the most is the resilience of the people. Facing daily threats of violence and war, through all the challenges, Israel is so vibrant. In a recent survey, Israel was rated the ninth happiest country in the world. I think that this is attributable in part to the fact that the residents have a sense of how special the relationship of the Jewish people is to this ancient homeland and how fortunate they are in fulfilling the 2,000-year dream to return.  

Our most meaningful trip was in 2016. We took all of our children and grandchildren. Sharing the experience together deepened our love for Israel and for each other. The range of ages on our visit was 7-70. There is so much to learn and appreciate at each stage of life. 

Three of our grandchildren, including our granddaughter-in-law and our great granddaughter, live in Jerusalem now. We know that our bonds with Israel will grow stronger and stronger.  

Happy 75th!! 

Tammy Heyman

Tammy Heyman 

It all began in 1979 when at age 15, I was fortunate enough to travel on a JCC teen trip to Israel with friends from my hometown of Pittsburgh. I didn’t quite know what to expect barring what I had learned at religious school and stories from my family, although none had yet to travel to Israel.  

To say that my world as I knew it, was rocked and forever changed would be a mild statement. I could not get enough! Everything that I did from that point on revolved around Israel and I returned again during my senior year of high school, living with Israeli families and speaking at Israeli high schools. It was another unforgettable experience. 

I have been lucky to travel many more times with friends and family. Each time, I have been drawn in different ways to that initial sense of wonderment that I remember feeling when the wheels of the plane touch down in Tel Aviv and that next journey begins.  

As I have been co-chairing the Insight Israel Forum (IIF), it has been so thought provoking as we are exposed to many different points of views, mindsets and narratives that revolve around Israel today. It’s a young country with so many growing pains and you have to see and appreciate the brilliance of all of that beyond the ‘noise’ that you read and hear about daily.  

The IIF has allowed me to keep that passion for Israel that I felt as a 15-year-old alive and enlightens my appreciation for the Israel that we know today. 

Linda Hurwitz

Linda A. Hurwitz 

When someone or something is good to your loved ones, you never forget it!!  

As Founding Co-Chair of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership in 2003, I fell in love with the people and city of Ashkelon. 

For each of our three children’s B’nai Mitzvahs, we took a family visit to Israel, and each had a ceremony or second Bar/Bat Mitzvah in our homeland. 

By our third child’s Bar Mitzvah, we knew we wanted this momentous occasion in Ashkelon. 

The mayor at the time had our entire family for Shabbat dinner and on that Monday, August 21, 2006, our son, Andrew read Torah and wore his new tefillin for the first time at the conservative synagogue in Ashkelon.  

And what a Bar Mitzvah it was with personal aliyot, signs all over with Andrew’s name, a huge kiddush, and a photographer who captured the true essence and significance of a Bar Mitzvah, especially in Israel, and even more importantly, in Ashkelon with our new friends and family. 

The Rabbi spoke in English and shared with Andrew, words I have repeated over and over again. He stated, ‘ Andrew the box on your forehead as part of your tefillin, symbolizes, you should always think of Israel and Israel should always be in the forefront of your mind. The box on your arm is pointed to your heart and you should always love Israel and Israel should always be within your heart. But Andrew, the straps wound around your arm symbolizes doing something for Israel. By you sharing this simcha with our congregation after just ending the Lebanon War and allowing all of us to share in this happy occasion, you truly have added joy and done something for Israel. May you continue to be there for Israel as you grow to be a proud Jewish man.’ 

I know Andrew will forever cherish his Bar Mitzvah in our partnership city of Israel and so will everyone fortunate to share in his memorable and meaningful Bar Mitzvah. 

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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