Mission Trips

Mission Trips to Spain, Portugal, & beyond.

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    The Center for Latino – Jewish Relations Welcomes You to Our 5779 Annual Trip to Israel

    Bruchim ha’Baim L’Midinat Yisrael Welcome to the State of Israel

    Please note this is a combination of various emails plus new information. Please read through all the material and if you have any questions please contact me.
    Please read it carefully and take the time to see the videos. The videos will make the words become realities. Here is a reading list of books that you may want to read now or after you return home. We promise there will NOT be an examination.


    Book Recommendations

    A list of book recommendations, from my collection, is listed below and you can find them on the links included.

    • Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis – Click Here
    • Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman – Click Here
    • The Israel Test by George Gilder – Click Here
    • Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor – Click Here
    • The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience by Jane S. Gerber – Click Here

    We are all on the same flight. We depart Houston (IAH) on December 4th and return from Tel Aviv (TLV) on December 11.

    Departure date and flight number: December 4th at 07:25 – UA1666 to EWR and from EWR to TLV on UA 84. Departs at 16:20.

    Return date and flight number December 11 UA 85 TLV to EWR departs at 11:35. Then UA 1074 from EWR to IAH departs at 19:00.

    Please call United and give them:

    1. Your United Frequent Flier Number
    2.  Your Cell Phone Number

    All times are local times.

    United randomly assigns seats. If you are unhappy with your seat please call United and they will be glad to change your seat.

    To call United dial: 1 (800) 864-8331. If you are not happy with your seat, please call United now.

    We have a relatively long layover in Newark, about 3 hours. We will meet at the United Group Room next to Starbucks on way to Gate 120 at Newark Airport at 12:00 noon. This information will be updated a few days prior to departure

    This is not in the United Club but close to it on Nov 29. I will be there at 12:00 noon to receive you.

    Group Name: Latino Jewish Relations

    Make Sure You Check:

    • Check with your insurance company regarding the status of your health insurance outside of the US.
    • Make sure to tell your credit card company that you will be traveling outside of the USA.
    • Take plug adaptors (Israeli outlets are different from US ones). If you use a PC you will need an adaptor that changes the voltage from 220 volts to 110. Macs automatically adapt.
    • Check with your telephone company regarding the use of cell phones outside of the US and what the roaming charges will be. Skype and WhatsApp are free calls as long as you call on Wi-Fi.
    • Get a flu shot!
    • Do NOT pack medications, money, or any other essential item in a checked suitcase. Place these materials in your carry-on bag!

    Checklist #1: Essentials 

    1. Health insurance for outside of USA
    2. Called credit card companies
    3. Do I have plug adapters for Israel? (search the internet for photos)
    4. If I do not have a Mac, do I have an adapter for 220 voltages?
    5. Did I get a Flu Shot?

    Please Do NOT to forget 

    • Do not forget to bring your passport! US passport holders do not need a visa to enter Israel.
    • Make a second photocopy of your passport and leave it with someone who can send it to you, should you lose your passport.
    • If you are going into the water: the Jordan River, the Dead Sea or hotel swimming pool, please bring a bathing suit.
    • Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs. Dead Sea mud and cosmetics can take up a lot of room.
    • Remember that if you have over 20 kilos (about 44 pounds) you may end up with weight charges.
    • If you take medications, please do not forget to bring them and pack them in your carry-on bag.
    • Jerusalem can be cold (and rainy), especially at night. Bring something warm and also something should it rain.

    Checklist #2: Practical Things (Item — Where to pack)

    1.  Passport — Carry-On
    2.  2nd Copy of Passport — With Yadi
    3.  Copy of credit card numbers and how to call if lost — In a safe place
    4.  Medications and their medical names — Carry-On
    5.  Small Umbrella — Suitcase
    6.  Sunscreen — Suitcase

    When you pass through immigration you will receive a small immigration pass. This pass is necessary to access the baggage area and to receive an exit visa. PLEASE DO NOT LOSE IT!!

    The first night will be in Tel Aviv at the Royal Beach Hotel

    Video for Royal Beach: Tel Aviv

    We are staying all other nights in Jerusalem at the Orient Hotel

    Although Israel is a high fashion society in women’s clothing, tourists can be informal.

    Holy sites require women to cover their arms and shoulders and men to have their head covered. Any form of head covering is acceptable.

    Israel’s sun is strong even in the winter. Having a head covering and also sunglasses is highly advisable. If you are going to go swimming in the Dead Sea take sunscreen.

    Men do not need a tie. Traditionally (but not required) men use a white shirt with a sports jacket (and open neck shirt) for Erev Shabbat (Friday evening dinner/services).

    A windbreaker will come in handy.

    The weather is somewhat similar to Houston’s and just as unpredictable. It can be warm one day and cold and rainy the next. December can even have snow in northern Israel (the Galilee, and also Jerusalem). Best is to go to the weather channel a day or two prior to departure and put in the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea region. Please note that each of these regions might have different weather patterns while we are there.

    Take good walking shoes. You will be walking on many ancient streets, often cobblestone. Distances can be long and in the older cities often there is little room for buses, so they park outside of the old cities.

    Checklist #3: (Item — Where to pack)

    1.  Hat or Kippah — Suitcase
    2.  Good walking shoes — Suitcase
    3.  Sunglasses — Suitcase or Carry-On
    4.  Men’s White Shirt — Suitcase
    5.  Skirt and blouse for religious locations — Suitcase
    6.  Windbreaker — Suitcase
    7.  Bathing Suit — Suitcase

    Remember electricity is 230 volts in the Israeli sockets. For Israel, there are three associated plug types, C, H, and M. Plug type C is the plug that has two round pins, plug type H has three pins in a triangular shape and type M has three round pins. Israel operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. Go to the Internet to see a picture. US plugs will NOT work. Most Macs will automatically adjust; includes iPhones and iPads.

    Once you depart Newark airport, you are leaving the 21st century and flying to the 58th century. Israel is both old, 6,000 years, and New, National Independence was regained 70 years ago. Currently, the Jewish year is 5779.

    The only legal currency is the Shekel. The shekel is divided into 100 agorot.

    This is the same term that is used in the Bible (You are in the land of the Bible).

    Its value as of today is: 1 dollar is worth 3.36 shkalim (plural of shekel). The sign of the shekek is ₪. This is the equivalent to the dollar sign ($).

    It is best to change dollars into shkalim. As is the case with all currencies the value changes a bit every day. Look in the newspaper for that day’s rate.

    Here is a video about money:

    Some stores will accept dollars, especially in tourist areas, but do not count on that. Better to have shkalim in your pocket. Unused currency is easily changed back to dollars at the airport.

    All US credit cards are accepted and there are ATM machines everywhere. Some ATM machines are multilingual, others use only Hebrew.

    Despite the fact that you are in the land of the Jewish mother plus the land of milk and honey so you should not be surprised that eating is a national pastime. Most foreigners are shocked by the amount and variety of food in Israel. The great mix of peoples means that the country has one of the world’s hottest culinary scenes. Most food is locally produced.

    Once upon a time, Israeli food was far from gourmet, those times have changed and Israel’s big cities are constantly picked as some of the world’s great culinary locations. This year Condé Nest picked Tel Aviv as one of the top five culinary cities in the world

    Breakfast is a big deal! The Israeli breakfast is the opposite of the Continental breakfast. It usually consists of bread, cereals, a wide variety of salads (lots of tomatoes and cucumbers), smoked fish, eggs, omelets, chalvah, eggplant salads, chumus, yogurts, a wide variety of fruits, and cheeses.

    Lunch and dinner usually consist of some form of meat, chicken or fish, salads, rice or potatoes, and dessert. Remember you are in the land of chicken soup!

    Some of the fruits and vegetable will look and taste differently, this is because they are fresh and chemicals and/or dyes are not added.

    Portions tend to be large and it is wise to diet before you travel to Israel. Reminder this is the land of the Jewish mother, so come prepared to eat!

    Here is a video about five Israeli foods you might never have heard of and may want to try:

    Even in the winter, the sun can be very strong in Israel. Bring sunglasses and a hat!

    Jerusalem is high and arid. At night Jerusalem can get quite chilly. Tel Aviv has a climate similar to Houston’s and is humid. The North can be cold and snowy. The Dead Sea region is always warm. Southern Israel is like Arizona, hot and dry.

    Please remember the best advice for travel is: take less!

    You can get almost anything in Israel. You may want to bring back religious items, shoes, sandals, Israeli cosmetics, and Jewelry. Often people bring back food products (must be wrapped). Stores are open from Sunday until Friday noon.

    Israel is one of the world’s most advanced medical countries. It was recently picked as number 6 in the world (the US ranked 54th).

    The medical standards are so high that an Israeli doctor may practice in the US without further testing. (The inverse is not the same as Israel’s medical standards are higher). Israel has some of the top medical specialists in the world.

    Remember to bring whatever medications you may need. If you forget them, you can get them in Israel but be prepared to spend at least one full day at the doctor who will (by law) have to give you a full exam. The world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Teva, is an Israeli company.

    Also, check to see what coverage your US provider covers in Israel. Israelis have national health insurance, but that insurance does not cover non-citizens.

    Israel water is pure but due to different minerals, you may want to drink bottled water. Many US medications are Israeli.

    Israeli is a science hub. If you are going to use your cell phone then get an international plan. If not wi-fi and social media are everywhere.

    Time: Israel is GMT +2 or 8 hours ahead of Texas. When the Gregorian calendar is used dates are given as BCE or CE (Before the common era or Common era). Sensitive Americans now use BCE and CE instead of BC and AD.

    Israel’s nickname is the “start-up” nation. Israelis are always inventing something new and failure in business is considered a sign of “creativity”.

    Some of the Israeli products that you use are the cell phone, the cherry tomato, the Entel chip, Wayze, and the GPS.

    Video on the Startup Nation.


    Saturday is the Sabbath. It begins on sundown on Friday night and ends sundown on Saturday night. Sunday is a workday.

    We will be in Israel over Chanukah. Despite what many people think, Chanukah is NOT the Jewish Christmas. The holiday has two aspects to it:

    1.  It marks the expulsion of the Greek-speaking Assyrians from the land and the regaining of national independence.
    2.  It reminds us of the miracle of the oil at Har Ha’bayit (Temple Mount) lasting for 8 days rather than 1 day.
    3.  Chanukah foods, therefore, include fried foods such as potato pancakes (latkis) and a special jelly donut called “sufganiya” (plural is sufganiyot)
    4.  The game of draydle (a top with the Hebrew version of the letters N/G/H/P on it. The letters stand for “Nes gadol haya po” (a great miracle occurred here). Outside of Israel the p is changed to Sh meaning “there” rather than “here”.


    Hebrew: Where the Bible comes alive!

    Hebrew is Israel’s official language and most people’s daily tongue. It is also probably the world’s oldest spoken language. Modern Hebrew is basically Biblical Hebrew updated (new words such as a jet plane, flight attendant etc.) Modern Hebrew words tend to be derived from Biblical words, thus assuring the relative purity of the language.

    The language of the Bible is the language in which children are educated, in which government works etc… Many people also know foreign languages. You will find many people who speak good English. Other major western foreign languages that spoken are French, Russian, and Spanish.

    Due to the fact that many in Israel’s population hail from all over the world it is hard to find someone who does not speak at least two languages (probably more).

    A Jew who has come back to the land of Israel is called “oleh chadash” (plural olim chadashim). The term means “one who spiritually has gone up”. You will find olim from over 80 countries, making Israel one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and international countries. The act of coming to Israel is “aliya”.

    Although you can survive perfectly well with English, using some basic Hebrew will bring not only a smile but also a blessing.

    Israelis are used to foreign visitors. Besides Americans, you will meet large groups of visitors from diverse countries such as:

    • Brazil
    • China
    • France
    • Germany
    • Indonesia
    • Kenya
    • Mexico
    • Nigeria
    • Poland
    • Russia
    • United Kingdom
    • Etc.
    Hebrew Words to Know

    Most Israelis speak at least three or four languages, (and English is a required High School subject), but it never hurts to know a few words in Hebrew. Using them will bring smiles!

    Pronounce the CH combination as in the Scottish word “Lach”, Read a as ah, “e” as ay or eh, I as ee, o as a real o and u as oo. (Similar to Spanish vowels).

    B’vakashah: This word means: “please” and it is also one of the ways to say: “you are welcome”. When a waiter serves you s/he also says: b’vakashah!

    Beit-Malon: Hotel

    Beit Mirkachat: Pharmacy

    B’teyavón: Hearty appetite/Bon appetite! This term is used whenever you see someone eating, if you know the person or not.

    Boker tov: Good morning. The return greeting is: ”Boker Or” (a morning of light).

    Chadar ha’Ochel: Dining room

    Erev tov: Good evening

    Ezrah rishonah: First Aid

    Ha’Cheder sheli: My room

    Ken: Yes

    Lailah tov: Goodnight

    L’hitraot!: Au revoir! (hasta luego)

    Lo: No

    Lo todah: no thank you

    Rofeh: Doctor

    Shalom: General greeting, it means: peace, hello and goodbye, it is also used for “good afternoon”.

    Shalom Aleichem: General greeting, more or less the equivalent to “How are things going? or “What up?” The answer is “Aleichem shalom”.

    Shabbat Shalom: the greeting used on the Jewish Sabbath (Friday night until Saturday night). Jews use the term from Friday noon until late afternoon on Saturday.

    Shavuah Tov: (a good week) used on Saturday night or even Sunday morning.

    Remember Sunday is a workday in Israel.

    Sherutim: Restroom

    Todah: thank you

    Words and Terms to Avoid

    When traveling it is best also to know what NOT to say: Here are a few words that are best to avoid.

    When referring to the holiest site in Judaism, avoid the use of the word: Wailing Wall. Jews call this site “Ha’Kotel” or in English The Western Wall.

    Avoid Old Testament and instead, use:

    • Hebrew Bible
    • Hebrew Scripture
    • Common Testament

    In reality, the concept of “Bible” as a single book is a Christian concept. Jews see each of these holy books as a sperate book.

    • Sefer Shmot = Book of Exodus
    • Sefer Tehilim = Book of Psalms.

    Often we call them by the Hebrew Acronym “Tanach” (Torah, Niviim, Ktuvim).

    Terms that might confuse you. 

    Torah = first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

    Niviim = Prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah etc)

    Ktuvim = Writings: Books such as Daniel, Proverbs, Esther etc.

    Talmud: The maximum book of Jewish post-Biblical law, somewhat akin to Cannon Law for Catholics. Talmud has two parts: Halachah (legal commentary) and Agadah (nonlegal commentary).

    Midrash = Legends or other tales that “fill in” the lacunae found in the Biblical books.

    Beit-Midrash = School of Jewish studies

    Talmud Torah = School of Jewish studies

    Yeshivah = School of Jewish studies

    When using the Gregorian calendar use: BCE (for BC) and CE (for AD).

    Here is a video with some Hebrew phrases:

    Israel is one of the world’s youngest democracies and at the same time oldest nations. Jews have lived in the land for over 3,000 years. Abraham entered the land in the year 1948 of the Jewish calendar (it is now 5779). Although the Romans conquered and dispersed the Jewish people in the year 70 of the Gregorian calendar, a Jewish presence has always existed. In 1948 of the Gregorian calendar (5708 on the Jewish calendar) national independence was reestablished after almost 2,000 years of foreign rule. Upon declaring Independence and winning the 1948 War of Independence, Israel threw open its doors to any Jew who needed to come home. This law, called the law of return, is still very much in force and symbolizes the beginning of the Biblical prophecy of the in-gathering of the exiles.

    Below are two videos referring to the “Pre-Israel and its Declaration of Independence”. 

    Singing HaTikvah at Bergen-Belsen (1945)

    Here is a partial recording of the reading of the Deceleration of Independence (May 14, 1948) putting an end to two millennia of Jewish exile:


    Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy. The Israeli form of democracy is a bit different from the American. It is a parliamentary democracy that is more similar to the European model than to the US model. The Knesset (parliament) has 120 seats (ten seats for each of the Biblical 12 tribes of ancient Israel). The Knesset has its name from the Knesset haG’dolah (Great Assembly), representing the Jewish council convened in Jerusalem by Ezra and Nehemiah in the 5th century BCE. People vote for a political party rather than for a candidate. There are advantages and disadvantages to both forms of democracy. To a great extent Israelis enjoy as many, or perhaps more, freedoms than do Americans. There is full freedom of assembly, religion and speech. The media range from those stations and newspapers that support the government to those that despise the government in power. You will find a video about the Knesset at:  

    In such a diverse country expect to hear every opinion and molding people from so many lands into one nation is a herculean challenge.

    Please note that the national sport is “complaining” followed by eating. Israelis complain about everything and anything.

    Because Israel is a parliamentary democracy often the terminology does not match up with US terms. The Israeli system is somewhat similar to the British system with a lot of classical Jewish flavor added to the mix. Here are some terms and some of the differences between these terms in a parliamentary democracy and the US.

    Knesset = Parliament. Elected by the people, it is the supreme authority of the land. Currently there are 14 political parties. MKs (Knesset Members called in Hebrew “Chavrei-Ha’Knesset) are elected via proportional representation.

    Coalition: If no party has a majority in the Knesset then the parties most form an agreement, called coalition to gain a majority.

    Prime Minister (Rosh Ha’Memshalah) = The political head of government. Usually the leader of the largest party in the Knesset forms a government (administration). The Prime Minister governs (up to four years) with permission of the majority of the government (Knesset)

    President (Nasi) the titular head of government: the nasi’s role is somewhat similar to that of the king/queen in England or the president of most European parliamentary democracies.

    The term “government” in Israel means “the administration”.

    When a government “falls” that means: The prime minster has lost a vote of confidence in the Knesset and a new government (administration) must be formed. If the Prime Minister cannot form a new government then new elections are called. No government may last more than four years, at which time elections must be called.

    What Americans call government might best be translated (although the term is not exact) as Knesset.

    Lone Soldier (Chayal boded). Young person who has come to Israel to join the army and has no family in Israel.

    Beit–din: Religious court (follows laws within the Talmud).

    Beit Mishpat: Secular court (follows laws passed by the Knesset).

    As noted above, Israel has full religious liberty. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where it is 100% safe to be a Christian. As the indigenous people, Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Despite the illegal expulsions by the Romans some 2000 years ago, Jews have never forgotten their ancient homeland. Modern Jews share DNA with their ancient ancestors; they speak the same language (although today’s Hebrew has more words), and after an absence of some 2,000 years have revived their ancient culture. Jews have returned home from over 100 nations speaking languages from around the world. As such Israel is the world’s youngest-ancient nation.

    Known by the Hebrew acronym “Tzhal” Israelis are proud of their people’s army. All Israelis have some form of national service, even those with severe physical challenges. Every Israeli man and woman first goes to the army and only then does university. Below are two videos about Tzhal to give you a glimpse into this side of Israeli life. A People Army: Israeli Soldiers at Prayer: Young American Women in the Israeli Army:  
    You will find Israelis from all parts of the world, all colors and all body types. Arabs and Christians who are Israeli citizens have full and equal rights, and Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that guarantees freedom of religion for all of its citizens. You will meet Jews from China and Peru, from Scandinavia and Ethiopia, from Argentina and Mexico, from France and Russia. You will find Israel to be a potpourri of peoples and often more a pressure cooker than melting pot. Here are some videos about aliyah (the in-gathering of the exiles) Jews Returning Home from India: A Mercaz Klitah:  

    Please click the link below to find an updated itinerary. There may be some minor last minute changes and should they happen, we will let you know.

    Israel Itinerary 5779

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