In February, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Israel working for a previous employer, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. It is the central coordinating body for American Jewry, representing 52 national Jewish agencies from across the political and religious spectrums. Every year the Conference does an annual mission to Israel for its leadership, and I was helping to coordinate the program and logistics.
The first sign I knew I was in a very different place from Moscow is that there was an 80°F temperature difference. When I left Moscow it was -10°F and in Tel Aviv it was over 70°F. That was a good way to get my trip started, but then I barely saw the outdoors for two weeks after that because I was so busy. There is a ton of work that goes into the mission and a typical work day was from 9:00 am – 1:30 am. Once I even worked as late (as early?!) as 4:30 am. The hotel turns two adjoining rooms into an office where we set up desks, computers, printers, copy machines, etc. The office was 4 doors down from my hotel room, therefore my exercise was also limited. Sadly, I did not see the outdoors much, although I managed to go out for ten minutes for fresh air at least twice. The lead up to the mission is intense, but once it starts it is a whirlwind of excitement.
Luckily, I had a great partner in crime, Roz, and we kept we each other sane through the whole experience. We sat about 1 foot away from each other and were forced to bond quickly. The hotel is kosher, which means room service, which is what we ate for practically every meal (not nearly as exciting as it sounds – you get sick of the menu very, very quickly), and it can only deliver meat or dairy at a time. I love meat and since the meat in Russia isn’t great I jumped at every opportunity to get it. Lucky for me, I was able to convince Roz to do meat for dinner almost every night. She even called room service on Friday afternoon to see if they would save me a portion of chulent (a beef stew traditionally eaten on Shabbat) for Saturday night when we returned to the office to work. Not only did they save me one portion, but they saved me three!! We even had some friends bring us in burgers and schwarma!
During the mission itself there were some great speakers. I won’t bore you with the details. Here are a few articles if you want to read further.
Opening dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/152926#.T09C12CmlIt
An article about our day trip to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=258802
An article about the speech by President of Israel Shimon Peres (Peres on Iran: When We Say ‘All Options,’ We Mean It): http://www.timesofisrael.com/peres-on-iran-when-we-say-all-options-are-on-the-table-we-mean-it/
In the gallery below are a few pictures of some of the speakers and our day in Jordan.
Michael was able to join me in Israel for the last session of the mission and we then spent the weekend in Israel. We spent Friday afternoon wandering around the Old City of Jerusalem and walked the ramparts (the Old City walls). We then headed to Tel Aviv. Again, we failed at the beach vacation! Although we did sit on the beach our last night for a drink, we were busy walking to the port, Old Jaffa, checking out a few museums, and of course eating! My most favorite restaurant was an all you can eat Kosher Brazilian steak house. Have no doubt about it, I out ate Michael.
We are safely back in the cold of Moscow, although it has been in the 20’s since my return, which feels almost tropical compared to what it was like before I left. I have switched from my heavy jacket to my lighter pea coat.
From Russia with Love,