My wife Ruth and I recently visited Israel with the Presidents Mission of the Jewish National Fund. While I have been to Israel many times, this mission was different because it exposed me to a vast array of JNF projects. When we were two miles away from the Syrian border visiting JNF sites in the Golan Heights, we heard and saw rockets being shot into Israel from Syria. During our visit to Halutza, which is two miles from the Sinai and Egypt, we heard gunfire and saw the smoke when we first arrived. We were told that this was Egypt fighting ISIS. Both of these areas are parts of the JNF mandate to develop the regions in the Galilee and the Negev so more people will live outside of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The JNF builds medical facilities, indoor playgrounds with bomb shelters, cultural amphitheaters, and therapy facilities for handicapped people. It also builds reservoirs, maintains the forests, and is instrumental in providing fire engines and related firefighting equipment. These are just a few of the many projects that make JNF such an important component of the growth of Israel.
After the mission, Ruth and I extended our trip to see family and friends and to revisit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Spending erev Shabbat and Shabbat at the Western Wall was incredibly moving to me. As a photojournalist in a previous career, these photographs brought me back to my days of doing picture stories. Capturing the images of religious and secular Jews and non Jews praying at the wall was very moving and emotional. As the crowds flowed in, the energy and passions were palpable. If the images talk to you like they do to me, I have been successful. Israel is our amazing homeland, and my visit once again reaffirmed my love for the country, its people and solidified my reason for assuming the presidency of the Northern New Jersey region of the JNF.