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April 23, 1993 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-23

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Memories Come Alive


udith Holtz's first flight
to Israel was in 1961 as
a 16 year old. It was in
honor of her brother's
bar mitzvah. The aircraft, a
turboprop, made two stops,
one in New York, another in
Paris, before landing on the
dirt runway at Lod Airport.
For Sherell Gordon, the
first time in Israel was in
1948. Fresh from World War
II as an aerial photographer
for the U.S. Air Force in the
Pacific, Mr. Gordon lied to his
parents, telling them he was
working for a European com-
mercial airline. He had to be
smuggled into Israel and he
became an air force flier.
These were among the
many memories that came
to life as 1,300 Detroit area
residents deplaned at a mod-
ern Ben-Gurion Airport in
Tel Aviv for the biggest
United Jewish Appeal-spon-
sored mission ever,. the
Michigan Miracle Mission.
The travelers left behind
cold, rainy early spring
weather conditions in
Detroit. They descended onto
the Ben-Gurion Airport tar-
mac in Miracle Mission T-
shirts in near 90-degree
weather and sunshine.
Better than 50 percent of
the Mission-aires were mak-
ing the trip to Israel for the
first time. There was more
than the usual buzzing and
excitement on the packed El
Al jets, the first ever to orig-
inate flights from Detroit.
Each jet had the words
"Michigan Miracle Mission"
painted on its nose.
"It's exciting," said Bob
Naftaly, one of the Mission's
many bus captains. Indeed,
30 buses were awaiting the
visitors, running 30 separate
itineraries around the coun-
try through April 28.
"I thought I was going to
cry," said Sondra Gordon,
Sherell's wife, "especially
when we came down the run-
"It's almost incomprehen-
sible that this is actually hap-
pening," said co-chair Susan
Citrin. "This is like a dream.
For so many months, we've
been involved in briefing
meetings, business meetings
and all sorts of organization-
al meetings. Look around
you, and we're here. I feel
sort of like I'm taking kids


to Disney World for the first
Though they weren't tak-
ing their kids anywhere, at
least two grandmothers were
on the Mission with their
adult granddaughters. Alice
Egrin of West Bloomfield was
traveling with granddaugh-
ter Sherry Kanter of
Huntington Woods. Mary
Fink of Royal Oak was with
granddaughter Sheri Fink of
West Bloomfield. Sheri came
all the way into Detroit from
Stanford University to take
the trip with her grand-
"I always wanted to go to
Israel, and how can anyone
say 'no' to her grandmother?'
she said.
"I heard about the trip,"
said Mrs. Fink, "and I called
Sheri and said, 'What the
hell, let's go.' "
The busloads met at
Modi'in, the area where the
Maccabees made their mark
on Jewish history. There,
Miracle Mission participants
planted trees. They also lis-
tened to short speeches from

"Coming here
does make you
feel that, as a Jew,
this is all
part of you 55

\ Judith Holtz

Mission leaders. \
The most powerful words
came from Israel Areign
Minister Shimon Peres, who
used the opportunity to say
that Israel is more than will-
ing to continue peace efforts,
as long as those efforts doift
jeopardize its security.
'We want to make peace,"
said Mr. Peres. "There's not
enough land, water and
peace. We need to take the
desert from the land, the salt
from the water and violence
from the people.
"Anti-Semitism," he con-
tinued, "is not a Jewish mal-
ady, but weakness is. Today
we are ready to dialogue. Let
them have their rights, but
let us have our rights."
Following the speeches
and tree planting, the buses
went on their own routes,
mostly in the Jerusalem
area. Ever visible were mil-

Unloading bags at the JCC are Mr. and Mrs. Wibert Pastor, Robert Lawler and Mikhail Mazur.

itary checkpoints, especially
around the West Bank, that
prohibited West Bank
Palestinians from entering
Israel because of terrorist vi-
olence against Israelis.
Still, even though they
were driving on the fringes
of the West Bank, few people
expressed any fear of vio-
lence. "I'm not afraid here,"
said Ms. Holtz, who was
traveling with her husband,
Albert. "I remember my
grandfather telling me a
story about how he came to
Israel and saw a military pa-
rade. He said there were
tanks there, and he called
them 'Jewish tanks,' and mil-
itary there, and he called
them 'Jewish military.' This
made him happy. And I can
tell you that coming here
does make you feel that, as a
Jew, this is all part of you."
There was even a contin-
gent of JARC clients on the
trip. One of those clients,
Lorraine Schwartz, said she
was looking forward to see-
ing a kibbutz, something that
she's talked about since she
was a little girl.
"Some of our people have
been talking about doing
something like this for
years," said JARC supervi-
sor Richard Thomas, who ac-
companied the group. "When
we heard about the Mission,
members of our board de-
cided to make all of this pos-
For most of the partici-

pants, Monday was a day to
take in the sights of a coun-
try that is brand-new for
some and that has become
more familiar to others. But
in one quiet moment on her
bus, Alice Egrin noticed the
hills, with rocks spotting the

greenery with grays and
"There are stones here, be-
cause every time someone
comes back to Israel, a stone
is lifted from their hearts.
That's what this all says to

Connie and Barry Silverman are well documented.


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