In contrast to the women’s trip, the UJA-NNJ’s Men’s mission to Israel, which took 31 men from all over northern New Jersey to Israel from Jan. ‘9-Feb. 4, included a number of destinations selected specifically for men, according to Stuart Himmelfarb, director of major donor development for UJA-NNJ, who staffed the Men’s Mission to Israel with federation director Howard Charish.
In Sokhnin, where the group met with the mayor and other representatives of the Arab community, "we delved deeply into political and social issues," said Himmelfarb. But in addition to hearing experts in Arab-Jewish relations, the men of New Jersey still found time to visit the town’s soccer stadium, home of the town’s award-winning team.
There was also a chance to play a little basketball in Nahariya and to chat with coaches, owners, and former U.S. basketball players who now play for Israeli basketball teams.
They also took an off-road vehicle tour of the Golan Heights and visited the Ramat David air force base, meeting with a young pilot on the base’s tarmac. Marla Diamond, a correspondent for WCBS, accompanied the mission, filing daily postings on a weblog and giving live on-air reports about mission activities and other happenings in the Jewish state. According to Himmelfarb, UJA marketing director Miriam Allenson had pitched the idea to the radio station, and they were very receptive.
Diamond wrote about "current events, what the group was doing, and her own reactions to what she was seeing," said Himmelfarb. This was Diamond’s first trip to Israel. "She was one of the guys," added the group leader, who believes that Diamond’s presence helped mission members "articulate what they were feeling."
"[Her presence] didn’t change our approach to the trip. She was a real participant and conversed with our members about their reactions to what we were doing," he added. Diamond was accompanied on side trips by Avi Naiman, chair of UJA-NNJ’s Overseas Allocation Committee.
Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney also joined the group during the first part of its trip. McNerney accompanied mission members on a visit to first-responders in Nahariya. According to Himmelfarb, McNerney already knew some of the Israeli hosts, since, under Partnership ‘000, Bergen County had sent a group of first-responders to meet with the Nahariya group.