Seattle to Israel: Making Connections

NEW! Join us at #NWIsraelFest, a celebration of all things Israel, April 22-May 7, 2017. Find out more!

The Jewish Federation has a strong focus on strengthening the bonds of friendship and common memories between Seattle and Israel as part of our mission to lead a strong Jewish Puget Sound by serving as a community voice, strengthening connections to Israel and World Jewry, and making investments in Jewish life, for today and for the next generation.

Getting to know each other is the best way to strengthen those bonds, and there couldn't be a better way than face-to-face ... when Israelis visit our community and when local people visit Israel (at right, Alexis Debrock and friends on Israel Experience in summer 2015.)

The Federation helps foster our connections to Israel through scholarships that make it possible for young people to travel to Israel. There is nothing like an Israel experience to solidify Jewish identity and lay a strong foundation for a lifetime of Jewish engagement. (Visit our Israel Scholarships page to learn how to apply and to mark your calendar for the next application deadlines.)

This page features a selection of blog posts and photos from local people who have visited Israel and from Israelis spending time in the Seattle area. Let's get started!


Read Liat Carlyle's Essay: How 28 Days in the Holy Land Affected Me


Daphne Raigrodski Connects to Her Israeli Side

I live in the United States and am a citizen of the United States but I also have Israeli citizenship. My parents are from Tel Aviv and Ramat Aviv but moved to the United States a few years before I was born. Because my family is Israeli, we visit Israel once or twice a year for a few weeks at a time to see family. I always have a great time but I don’t like that all of my cousins are younger than me, because I don’t get to hang out with people my own age. So to say that I was excited for our Israeli peers is an understatement.

For the entirety of the trip, I could not wait to hang out with Israeli teens. When we first met the Israelis at the Kinneret, I immediately connected with them. I was excited to be with other Israeli teens and practice my Hebrew, and they were excited to be able to speak Hebrew with me. Throughout the week with the Israelis, it felt nice to let my Israeli side out. Before the Israelis arrived, everyone would always ask me for help with speaking Hebrew and translating things, but when the Israelis arrived I didn’t feel like Google Translate anymore. I was able to have regular conversations in Hebrew just as I would with my friends from the United States. It was fun to talk about things I have in common with them and talk about places we had both been.

I made many new friends that I will be able to visit when I am in Israel, and I am already talking about seeing them while I’m still in Israel after this program ends.


How the Yizkor Helped Daphne Raigrodski Process Auschwitz

I had thought about the trip to Auschwitz for nearly a year. It always seemed so far away, stuck in the back of my mind. Throughout the year, I don’t think it actually hit me that I would be walking in and then out of a place many people did not get to leave. Throughout the year I also thought I knew how I would feel during the visit and I anticipated continuously crying and being upset. But while actually at Auschwitz and Birkenau, I didn’t really know how to feel. It seemed like there were small pieces of information or certain items that brought out tears in my eyes. But as a whole I don’t know how I felt. I think that I was still processing how something so insane could have actually happened.

However, I think that having the opportunity to read the Yizkor in Hebrew at our memorial ceremony helped me process the day. Throughout the day, I had been so anxious and nervous about reading it because I didn’t want to mispronounce a word.  Reading it correctly meant so much to me, I felt that it was extremely important in order to honor everyone who died.

But then when it was my part of the memorial ceremony, it was incredible to read it in front of 60-plus people and share this moment of the ceremony with my unit. It felt like I was doing my part in making sure that every victim is remembered and that the horrific events of Auschwitz will be remembered to prevent something like it happening again in the future. While I still have a lot of thinking to do about the visit, I know that I cannot express how thankful I am for reading the Yizkor.


An Inspiring Journey in 2016 for Ariella Cohen

My experience in Israel was one of the most inspiring times in my life. Being surrounded by fellow Jews and feeling completely comfortable expressing my love and passion for Judaism was amazing. The program I went on, TJJ, allowed me to experience Israel with other Jewish teens, creating friendships that I know will last forever.

A moment on the trip that really stuck with me was when we went on a sunrise hike in Eilat.This may seem surprising to many people that know me because the morning is definitely not my favorite thing. Anyways, we had to wake up at 4 am, get on the bus to go to the trailhead, and then hike up Mount Tzfachot to see the view, all before the sunrise. As we walked over the rocky ground many people, including me, complained about being hungry since we hadn’t eaten yet, tripped on the rocks, and said they were too tired for this hike. The last stretch of the hike was quite steep and the rocks weren’t very stable, but as we got closer to top the view started to peek out from behind the mountains. As we got to the top the sun began to rise with us and the mountains looked as if they had been dipped in orange and red paint. At the top we could see Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

I remember simply being in awe of how good my life was at that moment and how lucky I was to have ever experienced something like this. I will never forget being on top of that mountain with Jews who I had grown to love and a view that was too incredible to even put into words. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip to Israel and I would never trade it for anything.


Israel an Eye-Opening Experience for Emma Stein - on her 2015 teen Israel Experience

It was sometimes hard for me to be Jewish before going on this trip because I never knew exactly how to do everything abiding by Jewish law. On Euro Ice we were taught to pray copious times a day and eat kosher food and learn about history. Ever since this trip my eyes have been opened about what I should and should not be doing in my life to keep Jewish law. 

During my trip we visited copious countries such as Spain, Majorca, and then the best country of all, Israel. 

In Israel I fell in love with the most beautiful state of all. I hiked Israel from top to bottom starting at the Dead Sea and then ending up at Masada.  Israel opened my eyes to the kindness in the citizens eyes and the fear but determination in the eyes of the soldiers. Israel is a strong state just trying to make its place in this world. You can see most of Israel sprawling out in front of you and see the beauty of it all. 

When I was in Israel my eyes opened to the daily lives of living in a constant war zone and it just made me want to go and help out Israel. Hopefully some day in the near future I will be able to visit Israel again and have my life changed again by the incredible experience I had.   


Sam Israel Experiences Israel in a Whole New Way

Have you ever downloaded a song from iTunes? Well if you have, you would know that it gives you an option to sample part of the song. Listening to the sample lets you decide if you like the song enough to buy it. My trip on Bnei Akiva’s Mach Hach Ba’aretz was the one-month sample of a year in Israel. Going on this five-week trip to Israel gave me the opportunity to experience Israel in a way that I had never done before. Mach Hach Ba’aretz showed me what a big part of my life will be like, if I take a year in Israel.

To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about my future after high school. I was leaning towards not going to Israel for a year, thinking that I would hate being so far away for so long. However, it was Mach Hach Ba’aretz that changed my decision. Behind the scenes of my amazing trip was the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. They gave me the scholarship that allowed me to spend five weeks of my summer in Israel and play a big part in me wanting to go to Israel for a year so badly. Thank you to JFGS for giving me the opportunity to experience Israel in a whole new way, making friends that will last a lifetime and to have the best summer of my life!!


Joey Hanan's Advice: 'Go to Israel!'

As the 8th graders prepare to depart for Israel I thought it would be a good time to give them a little idea of what to expect. Get ready for a life changing experience!

From the moment we met in the airport with our leaders, Mrs. Sara Weiss and Mr. Michael Behar, (My Uncle!), we knew we were in good hands. It was not long before we landed in Israel. As strange as it may seem, even though everything looked different and it was my first time there, I felt so at home.

We traveled from North to South, we went to the Lebanese border, to Yam Kineret to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Negev, Masada and much more.

On our first full day in Israel we visited a group of soldiers defending the northern border. We hung out with them under their camouflage nets and gave them souvenirs from Seattle. I was touched by how appreciative they were of our simple gifts when they sacrifice so much to protect our land.

A highlight of our trip was camping in the Negev Desert in a Bedouin camp where we got to ride camels. I don't know how but the Bedouins managed to get kosher certification for all of their amazing food. Our class chatted and bonded until late at night under the star-filled, desert sky.

Our trip happened to coincide with Jerusalem Day, a Holiday to commemorate the liberation of our holy city in 1967. Our class joined tens of thousands of Jewish teens from all across Israel as we marched waving flags, dressed in blue and white. Bands played live music across the parade route and we danced and sang the whole way.

Israel is so amazing! Where else could you walk underground through a huge water tunnel dug by our ancestors 2,000 years ago?  The tunnel was pitch black, and we sometimes all turned off our flashlights to experience the total darkness. That was part of our tour of the City of David, which taught me so much about our deep roots in our Holy Land. We really had to trust each other since we couldn't see, and only knew where to go by following the person in front of us.

I will never forget seeing the Kotel for the first time. I had heard and read and learned so much about it, and to be there was incredible. We first saw the Kotel from a viewpoint high above in the Jewish Quarter of the old city and we rushed down with excitement to touch the stones. There with us were Jews of all ages and colors from all over the world. I never felt so united with my people.

I am very grateful to the Seattle Hebrew Academy for giving me the opportunity to visit Israel. 

I am so appreciative of The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for supporting me with this trip of a lifetime.

To the 8th graders about to leave for Israel, this is just a small sample of a trip you will never forget. This experience was life changing for me and it will be for you too.


Sima Alhadeff's Best Summer Ever

The summer of 2015. My most amazing experience to date. With a scholarship from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, I spent six weeks on Michlelet NCSY, a learning program in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel and I have never had an experience that has even come close to the time I spent on Michlelet.

Coming from Seattle, and my small girl's high school of, at the time, 10 girls (which I do happen to love), I knew from the first moment I heard about Michlelet that the opportunity to spend the summer with 99 other girls learning in Eretz Yisrael was a dream come true and the chance of a lifetime. It was.

From the very minute that I met up with the group at JFK and received my NCSY Summer name badge, I felt at home. With the inspirational and fun madrichot, the warm and sweet girls, and the incredibly hardworking and dedicated head staff full of role models, there was not a question in my mind I was headed off on a great adventure. The shock, though, was just how great it got. It only seemed to go up.

My summer on Michlelet was a summer infused with Torah and fun.

Each day I learned for around five hours with my madrichot, my teachers and the nightly guest lectures from renowned speakers all over Israel. With Elisheva I learned about mitzvot ben adam l'atzmo, l'Makom and l'chavero. With Tamara I learned about simcha. With Mrs. Arieli I learned about the reasons for the mitzvot. With Mrs. Heber I learned through Eishet Chayil using it as a springboard for thoughtful and fundamental discussions. And the guest speakers spoke to me about everything in between.

When we weren't learning, we were outside on trips or doing chessed. From Tzfat to Eilat we went rappelling, banana boating, hiking and more. We visited the Blind Museum, Yad V'shem, Ma'arat HaMachpayla, Kever Rachel, and Kever HaRambam. We played with underprivileged children and greeted new olim at the airport to sing, dance and celebrate their move with them. We made a carnival for kids from Sderot and we even brought packages and thank-you letters to the army bases and border guards.

One of my highlights was when we made a wedding for needy couple. From start to finish. We bought gifts, set up the room, the bedekin and chupah, we set the tables and served the food. We danced with her all night and the whole room was just filled with the most amazing energy.

And when we weren't doing things like that, we were making our own fun at our campus, Yeshivat Reishit. Between basketball, zumba, baking, tie-dye, double dutch, and so many others including the crazy night activities, there was always something going on.

At the end of every day (when I finally did go to bed), I felt like one of the most blessed people in the world. I was in Israel, learning and having the time of my life, making tons of new friends, and filling my whole summer with meaning and inspiration. To this day, I can't help but break into a huge smile whenever I think back to Michlelet.

From the big activities to the little things, like the long talks with my friends out in the hall at 3 am (sitting on the random mattress that just seemed to appear one day and never leave), the hushed laughing fits on the floor at 4 am, or the bedbugs that so kindly decided to come visit in Tzfat, I know I'll always remember my Best Summer Ever.


Alexis Debrock Experiences All Israel Has to Offer

Starting at the beginning of the school year, I decided I wanted to go to Israel. This would be my first time in Israel. After looking into numerous programs, I finally decided on an NCSY TJJ summer program. Although the trip in comparison to other programs wasn't super expensive, I decided to apply for scholarships through the federation. I applied with the idea that I wouldn't really receive much money and would have to look elsewhere to pay for my expenses. After applying, I got an email back and received a scholarship. Surprisingly, the amount I was given basically covered almost all of my trip! The best part was that all I had to do in return was community service!

I ended up going on my trip not knowing anyone and I ended up having the best summer ever! I met so many new people and was able to become really close with many of them. I was also able to connect with my Jewish identity and see the religious side of Judaism. I am not all that religious back home so it was really exciting to see the religious perspective and experience daily life in that way. I was able to really experience all Israel had to offer, and without the help of the federation and scholarships, I'm not sure how I would have made it all possible. The best part was that I applied thinking I wouldn't receive anything because normally I don't qualify but they covered my entire trip and I ended up having the best summer ever in Israel!