THEY CAME TO ISRAEL
Ranging in age from 50 to 90, dozens of senior citizens from Canada, the United States and England went to Israel to participate in Jewish National Fund's 10 week CAARI Program (Canadian American Active Retirees In Israel). Yes, they read the newspapers, heard the news and warnings from friends and family members, but they still came.
"Why would you want to go to Israel now, of all times?" asked friends and relatives of the participants, who hailed from cities in Canada, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio New Jersey and New York.
Noami Halpern and Morris Falk, from Woodstock, New York, have been going on this program for over 10 years. Many, such as Joyce Rose from England and Saul Gordon from Toronto, are participating in the CAARI program for the first time this year, although they have visited Israel many times. All said that this year in particular, they wanted to show their support to the country and their love for the land.
"Israel needs tourists," said Seymour Greenstein of Cleveland. "Now more than ever, we need to give them moral support."
The CAARI Program is a unique work, study and touring program. Participants can choose various 2, 4, 6 or 10-week portions of the program. The two-week study and tour program in Be'er Sheva explored the Negev from the time of Abraham through the return of the Children of Israel to the modern day redemption of the desert.
Participants experienced enchanting nature reserves, picturesque canyons in the desert, archeological sites such as Tel Be'er sheva and the ancient cities of the Nabateans. They visited Yeruham, Ze'alim and several kibbutzim and saw how JNF is working with Negev communities to reclaim the land, improve water resources and assist in agriculture research.
"We worked in schools, hospitals, day care centers and homes for the aged. We packed pharmaceutical supplies for the Third World countries at the Army base. We pruned trees and cleaned up the forests. We even packed staple supplies for the Armed Forces," said Greenstein, who has been on the trip every year for nearly two decades.
They met scientists at the Desert Institute and Ben Gurion University, where they learned about today's modern technology in rolling back the desert. "This program was great," said participant Sylvia Singer of Cranberry, New Jersey. "We visited interesting sites, but more than that we met and socialized with the Israelis. We loved meeting with Ethiopian, Bedouin and Cochin Indian communities. We learned about their culture, the heritage and the issues integrating in Israel's society. You can't get this on a regular tour program."
This year CAARI spent two weeks in Tel Aviv and two weeks in Eilat volunteering in communities. In Tel Aviv they worked at two army bases, packing food boxes at one base, and at another base, packing medical supplies for soldiers in the field. When Operation Defensive Shield began in April, the participants realized what an important contribution they had made. In Eilat they volunteered in schools, a senior center and the Navy Base. Yes, the CAARI volunteers were busy. After work, CAARI visited museums, community centers and historical sites. They traveled the country from Eilat, to the Galilee and Jerusalem. They heard lectures on interesting subjects such as Israel's economy, an update on the political situation, Jerusalem and life in the desert.
"The CAARI program is not just a touring program. It is so much more," said Thelma Shore, from Toronto, Canada. "Yes, we see archeological sites, visit museums, but we also visit places that tourists don't normally see. For example, we didn't just tour the Chaim Nachman Bialik Museum in Tel Aviv, we sat in the library and read his poetry with our guide. We work hand in hand with Israelis when we volunteer in schools and community organizations. We are 'apprentice' foresters in the JNF forests. This is our connection with the land and our roots. Being in Israel with CAARI gives us a wonderful feeling of being in own Homeland and experiencing life as an Israeli."
And what do Israelis say about CAARI participants? "Welcome to Israel and thank you for coming, toda raba" is heard everywhere CAARI goes; in hotels, coffee shops, tourist sites and stores from Eilat to the Galilee. "You are the real heroes," said one Israeli to Anice Stark, from Toronto, "you are here with us and that is what is important."
The CAARI program is designed for active retirees who are interested in experiencing a special connection with Israel, the land and the people. For more information on CAARI, call 888-563-0033 x284 or email email@example.com.