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1,300 Michiganders gather on the
steps to Jerusalem's Temple Mount
e durinchtheirJ93 -Miracle Mission.
wenty years ago, more than 1,300
members of the Detroit Jewish
Community traveled to Israel on
the Michigan Miracle Mission. The Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, with the
support of the Detroit Jewish News and all of
our congregations, crafted a journey to Israel
in what was then and still remains the larg-
est community mission in the history of the
The late, indefatigable David Hermelin was
the chair and driving force. He formulated
and energized this trip. As co-chairs, all of us
were motivated by his leadership and bound-
less optimism. Who can ever forget David's
smile, gracious bearing and the special "David"
touches he brought to us and to his leadership
The thought that our city of under
90,000 could mobilize a trip of 1,352
people and fill three 747 El Al planes
was a measure of our confidence in
the strength of the Detroit Jewish
community. The wide reach of the
Detroit Jewish News and its generous
contribution of advertising space,
coupled with the full and enthusias-
tic cooperation of the congregations
and the American Friends of Israel
groups, enabled us to quickly fill
three planes. Notably, all of the organizations
helped in the recruitment process by graciously
postponing their individual mission programs.
While most of the participants lived in
Metro Detroit, the utilization of the newly
formed Michigan Jewish Conference and its
network added an additional dimension to
the mission, as we were joined by people from
other communities within the state.
As the departure date neared, the profes-
sional staff and lay leadership worked on the
logistics and planning necessary to coordinate
the activities of more than 1,300 participants,
navigating Israel in 30 buses. The variability in
the prior experiences of the travelers provided
a challenge. For some, this would be their first
trip to Israel, while for others this experience
would be one of many. For all, however, the
sheer size and opportunity to share Israel with
so many Detroiters reduced the challenge and
April 18 • 2013
made this trip unique.
As all of the partici-
pants gathered at the
Metro Detroit airport
terminal, the palpable
excitement created by
our mission generated
an early emotional
high that infused the
entire 10-day mission.
Whether it was your
first or fifth trip to
the Masada, your first
encounter with new Russian émigrés or your
10th visit to the Western Wall, the shared com-
munity experience was memorable. Few will
ever forget the tree planting in Israel or when
the ever-ebullient David Hermelin
led us in Hebrew songs at the
All of us can recall bonding with
our bus mates and our brethren
in Israel. Highlighting the last
minutes of our trip in Israel was
the appearance of Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin at our closing cer-
emony. His presence served as a
reminder of the bond between
the Jews of the Diaspora and the
importance of our Mission to help
make us one people.
We pride ourselves on being one of the truly
great Jewish communities in the Diaspora. We
believe that this is not a chance occurrence but
the result of a thoughtful, reasoned approach
to community building. This mission was an
important piece in that building process.
While the passage of 20 years causes memo-
ries to fade, few can forget the impact of this
trip that remains with us to this day!
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Miracle
Mission, join the Walk for Israel Sunday, May 5,
beginning at 11 a.m. at Temple Shir Shalom in
West Bloomfield. Register at walkforisraeLorg.
Dr. Conrad Giles of West Bloomfield is an
ophthalmologist at the Detroit Medical Center and
the former chair of the Jewish Council for Public
Budding Alliance Spurs
Social Justice Pursuit
hen rabbis give a sermon, they don't
know who's truly listening. After giving
his High Holidays sermon encouraging
social action, Rabbi Joshua Bennett of Temple Israel
not only found attentive listeners in congregants
Diane and Melvyn Rubenfire, but also proactive
The result: the West Bloomfield synagogue's lead
participation in a healthy habits initiative with the
Northwest Activities Center (NWAC), which is the
old Jewish Community Center in northwest Detroit
("The Old Neighborhood," March 28, page 1).
The first installment of Project Healthy Community is Mobile Pantry,
which provides food and preparation ideas for needy families near the
NWAC, at Curtis and Meyers. The sky's the programming limit as other
charitable groups join the interfaith regional effort. Already on board are
Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan and Hartford
Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.
Following Bennett's sermon to act, it didn't take long for the
Rubenfires to visit the neighborhood near the old JCC, where Melvyn,
now a prominent cardiologist, grew up in the 1950s. They toured the
NWAC, met its open-minded executive director Ron Lockett and cap-
tured the rabbi's interest.
In its heyday, the Curtis-Meyers JCC was an educational, cultural and
recreational powerhouse as well as a rallying point for Israel and for
Soviet Jewry. Today, the NWAC is a hub of social activity, giving sur-
rounding neighborhoods stability and purpose.
Project Healthy Community's success hinges on organizers gathering
resources and volunteers; there's no shortage of beneficiaries. While the
partnership and the planning develop, hope springs eternal given all the
humanitarianism nurtured in the corridors of the Curtis-Meyers JCC and
now the NWAC.
Shalit Froze Under Fire
new report suggests Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit contributed to
his 2006 capture by armed Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
He and other members of his tank crew failed to properly
respond to the attack, according to a Jerusalem Post report by Ben
Caspit. It's clear that even Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training doesn't
guarantee brilliance in battle.
Shalit was taken prisoner, but two members of his
tank crew died in the cross-border raid in the predawn
of June 25, 2006.
According to the March report, Shalit failed to act on
several chances to fire on his assailants, military inter-
views following his 2011 release disclosed. The Merkava
III tank he was a gunner aboard was fully operational,
even after the terrorists struck it with a rocket-pro-
pelled grenade. Shalit knew how to operate the tank;
he could have fired a cannon or machine gun or driven away.
Instead, he gave up, later owning up to not doing his duty in combat.
The infiltrating cell had seven terrorists. Two targeted the tank. They
killed commander Hanan Barak and driver Pavel Slutzker, who had aban-
doned the tank against regulation. Shalit emerged later, without his M-16
assault rifle; he told his captors not to shoot.
The tank crew had been warned about abduction or attack based on
intelligence. They not only ignored the warning, but also failed to alert
nearby reinforcements, Caspit reported.
Shalit was released in 2011 thanks to a stunning deal between Israel
and Hamas; Israel freed 1,027 prisoners, many convicted terrorists.
It's disconcerting that the tank crew was so ill-prepared. There's no
point in blaming Shalit, who survived five years of captivity. The IDF
would be best served reassessing combat assignment to better predict