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April 6, 2011

Exploring Ancient and Modern Miracles in Israel

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/exploring_ancient_and_modern_miracles_in_israel_39110406/

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From the day that I began working for the Jewish community, I’ve had two goals: to be a Chabad shaliach (emissary) and to take tour groups to Israel and show them what I think they should see. I want to be a shaliach because they always have beautiful wives. However, since I probably won’t be summoned to Crown Heights anytime soon, I’ve decided to focus on the second goal. I lived in Tel Aviv for two years while serving as a U.S. diplomat, and loved every minute of it. [I suppose now is as good a time as any to thank American taxpayers for providing me a two-story penthouse in central Tel Aviv during my assignment. Rest assured that I put it to good use]. My last trip to Israel was particularly productive, as I took around a small group of high-tech executives seeking business opportunities. In addition to making professional contacts, they fell in love with the country. That magical week with the executives confirmed my desire to show people why I love the Holy Land so much. Thanks to Morris Murdoch Travel, one of the country’s five largest travel agencies, I will now have the opportunity to lead at least one tour to Israel next year. When the trip’s website went up this morning, I felt like it was Christmas in April.

The trip came together over the course of a few months. I met Morris Murdoch’s Director of Group Travel Services, Beverly Cutshaw, following a speech I gave in Salt Lake City in January. After a few e-mail exchanges, we began building the itinerary. To her credit, Beverly let me compile a “wish list” of places and activities, then did her best to include them. The result is a personalized itinerary that reflects what I feel is the best of Israel.


It is important to me that travelers see not only what happened in Israel 2,000 years ago, but also come to appreciate a modern, vibrant Jewish state. To that end, the tour begins in Tel Aviv and ends in Jerusalem. Briefings on the Middle East, R&D, high tech, and local government will educate the participants on current political and economic developments in Israel. Not only are we visiting Christian sites in the Galilee (and staying on a kibbutz), but we’re also going to the Golan Heights, my favorite part of Israel. [My car was undoubtedly the only one in Israel that bore both diplomatic plates and a “The People Are With The Golan” bumper sticker].  I very much wanted us to visit a West Bank settlement, so we’re going to the largest one, Ariel. No trip to Israel would be complete without a Sabbath meal, so we’re celebrating one with an Orthodox rabbi.

It’s hard to fully express my thanks for being able to take a group to a country that changes people’s lives. We’ve designed the tour so that people of all faiths (and none) will find it interesting. I look forward to working with Tour Manager Wendy Fracchia to iron out the final details in the coming months. If you want to return from Israel with a profound appreciation for the ancient and modern miracles that have been wrought there, please join us. May you spend next year in Jerusalem – in March.     

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For more information, please visit my trip’s website (http://www.morrismurdock.com/tours/tour_detail.cfm?ID=420&Grouping=Holy&page=tours) or contact Wendy Fracchia at (801) 483-5285, wfracchia@morrismurdock.com.

I will be speaking to Jewish and LDS students at Harvard University’s Hillel on April 8.

Rabbi Barry Block and I will engage in dialogue during the San Antonio (TX) West Stake’s Education Weekend on April 15, and I will make a separate presentation on April 16 entitled “Mormons and Jews in the Latter Days: A Zion Relationship.”


I now write a weekly column on the Middle East for the Deseret News. Here is the inaugural post: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700124151/The-Middle-East-Beyond-the-headlines.html


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