March 18, 2018
By: Marty Shankle, Honeymoon Israel Cleveland September 2017 participant

My wife Haleigh and I moved back to our hometown of Cleveland a little over one year ago. Knowing where we were going to live and raise our family was a huge life decision for us, but after getting married, we realized that was one of many questions we wanted to find an answer to as we began our lives together.

We’re an interfaith couple that has decided to raise a Jewish family. But, we think to ourselves – what does raising a child Jewish truly mean for us? Our days are busy with work, family, friends, life. We quickly realized that unless we carved out the time to reflect on this question, we may never find the answer. We knew we weren’t sure where to start…until we heard about Honeymoon Israel.

We participated on the first Honeymoon Israel from Cleveland. We had been following the organization and knew couples who had participated from other cities across the country. We had a feeling this was going to be the perfect opportunity for us.

While on the trip, there were several structured opportunities for us to discuss some of life’s biggest questions as a group and with each other. These discussions not only helped us organize our priorities, but taught us how we can bring those back to our everyday life.  The most impactful moments of the trip were the spontaneous conversations we had with the other couples we were traveling with. The fact that Honeymoon Israel structures its program so we traveled exclusively with other couples from Northeast Ohio furthered our connections as we knew everything we learned from one another was directly applicable to our lives back home.

One of the most unique travel experiences while on Honeymoon Israel was visiting Beit Shean. Beit Shean is what is called a ‘sister city’ for Cleveland – the two cities have a very strong partnership that is rooted by support from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Our group was invited to join a local family for a delicious homemade lunch where we learned about the community and this family’s history.  As a young girl, our gracious host remembers coming to Israel in the 1960’s to avoid persecution; they had to literally sew their jewelry into their clothes to avoid having everything stolen from them. Now, thanks to the work of their community and the partnership with Cleveland, this family has a thriving business and making huge strides. It was incredible for us to see the impact the community we live in has made from afar.

Now that we have been back home for six months, we’ve hosted a few Shabbat dinners with our Honeymoon Israel family and started to incorporate a few of our own traditions. Ultimately, Honeymoon Israel provided a solid base of absolutes we plan on teaching our children. We’re already looking forward to going back to Israel someday soon, but honestly, an experience like Honeymoon Israel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.