Written by: Mike Fox, Honeymoon Israel Richmond, June 2022

Our Honeymoon Israel journey was deeply impactful in so many ways. Our cohort had the chance to experience and absorb many different vibrant, diverse, and thriving communities in Israel. The trip also brought my wife Katie and me closer together, and forever endeared us to a mishpacha (family) of new friends. But it was the joy of being part of a global Jewish community that really left a mark on me after the trip.

The trip was full of so many memorable moments. We baked challah at a Teamim Cooking School cooking class, learned about and pitched in at Pitchon Lev (an Israeli organization working to break the cycle of poverty), explored Tel Aviv street art with an artist, sampled delicious new food at Mahane Yehuda and Carmel markets, and made chocolates at The Shades of Sweet Organization (an organization that teaches at-risk youth to make chocolate and become chocolatiers). We shared somber moments at the Kotel (Western Wall), attended a seaside Shabbat service, and so much more. Because HMI also offers Israeli couples an opportunity to travel with the group for one Shabbat experience, we were able to befriend Israeli couples in our same life stage, and find out more about them and their lives in Israel, which was particularly rewarding. We wish we could’ve spent more time with them, but our group is staying in touch.

Which all leads me to my most impactful experience on the trip: Yad Vashem (the World Holocaust Remembrance Center). It was a somber memorial more than a museum — mourning children who never grew up, honoring gentiles (people who are not Jewish) who risked their own lives to save others, and remembering victims as beloved people rather than numbers. Yet, one of the first exhibits inside were films and photos of ordinary European Jewish families before the Holocaust. As our adventure came to a close, our group, and especially our friends who had converted to Judaism, appreciated that Jewish history and identity is more than the traumatic memories of the past — that Jews are part of a joyous and resilient family with a rich culture shared through generations across the world. And I’m thankful to be a part of this family.