Recent trip reinforced idea of Israel as travel destination


When my wife, Susie, and I got on that Continental 777 from Newark to Tel Aviv, we knew we were in for two weeks of fun and learning, but we didn’t realize just how full our time in Israel would actually be.

After being picked up by friends at Ben Gurion airport, we checked into the chic Montifiore boutique hotel in Tel Aviv. We then headed our for an eight-mile walk with our friends to see all the new restaurants and shops on the boardwalk in the renovated Tel Aviv port area along the Mediterranean.


Then that night we joined 1,200 other people to see the SRO production of Fiddler on the Roof that continues to play at the Cameri Theatre Arts Centre of Tel Aviv. A bonus for us was getting to see our friends’ daughter on stage playing Tevye’s fourth daughter.

Dance, theater, and music are not only part of the Tel Aviv scene, but all of Israel is hopping with cultural life, and its people are enjoying the good life there too. For us, the good life includes enjoying great meals along with the delights of fine wine.

This visit, Susie and I managed to visit five small volume wineries (out of about 300 now in operation in Israel….five down, 295 to go!) while we were enjoying the beauty and rustic charm of the Galilee’s beautiful Mizpe Hayamim, a Relais & Chateaux spa in Rosh Pinah that overlooks the Kinneret. And don’t get me started on the fantastic restaurants we ate at whenever (and wherever) we got hungry…..several better than anything offered in St. Louis…great young chefs popping up all over Israel.

There’s shopping to fit everybody’s taste and wallet, but the shops on Sheinken street are definitely a scene not to be missed.

Susie and I, along with Stephen Cohen of the Federation, represented St. Louis at the one-day international Partnership 2000 conference in Tel Aviv (Susie chairs the St. Louis Partnership 2000 committee).

Our counterparts from our sister city region Yokneam/Megiddo were also there. All of us were able to observe the award winning successful programs other city partnerships were involved with, giving us all plenty of new ideas.

The three-day General Assembly of North American Federations in Jerusalem was unbelievable. Speakers included Benjamin Netenyahu, Shimon Perez, Tzipi Livni, Stanley Fischer (head of Israel’s version of our Federal Reserve and quite impressive!), the new mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat and Ehud Olmert, to name a few. Shimon Perez is always my favorite and Stanley Fischer was a treat to hear. Then there were the breakout sessions. The one Susie and I learned the most in dealt with “Children at Risk in Israel.”

The GA on the second day had 65 buses going on 65 different all-day field trips. Susie spent her day learning about Israel’s culture and arts in its 60th year. I headed down to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with ecological folks to see the disaster there.

No fresh water now flows in the Jordan, only agricultural run-off and human sewage.

And the Dead Sea is sinking at over three feet per year. Hotels and restaurants built years ago that used to be right on the Dead Sea can still be seen though they are now over one mile away from the water and are no longer open.

The only good thing is that the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are meeting regularly to discuss needs and solutions for their common water problem. Apparently it is the only issue on which the three parties meet and talk.

The St. Louis contingent to the GA was composed of nearly 30 people, including Sheila Greenbaum, Gary Wasserman, Heschel Raskas, Jay Sarver, Joyce Becker, Sherri Frank Weintrop and her husband Dan, Barry Rosenberg, Stephen Cohen, Ruth Lederman and others.

We were also fortunate to be joined by a strong contingent of young Jewish leaders visiting Israel for the first time on a trip funded by Ron and Pam Rubin. Margo Schwartz of our Federation led this exciting group of future St. Louis Jewish community leaders.

After the GA, Susie, Joyce, Sherri, Dan, Stephen and the Rubin group headed up to Yokneam/Megiddo. The St. Louis Lions of Judah group had made a visit there a few days before — keeping our fabulous staff working on overload.

We all have such great friends in the region, it would take another article to cover them all and describe the warm and generous hospitality they showed us. Susie chaired our Partnership 2000 meetings there and we came away with a number of action items to make our strong kesher (people to people) relationship even stronger. One will be a Facebook “group” with members from St. Louis and from Yokneam/Megiddo. You’re all invited to join us in this modern age communication project.

After lots of kisses and hugs it was time to go back to Ben -Gurion Airport and to board the Continental 777 to Newark. We slept quite well.

Stuart Zimmerman is a Founder and Principal of Buckingham Asset Management in Clayton, a member of the Jewish Federation board and a Past President of the American Jewish Committee, St. Louis Chapter, who has traveled extensively in Israel with his wife Susie.