Jews from around Maine head to Israel for tour

Posted Feb. 11, 2010, at 10:19 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:40 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Three dozen Jews from around the state set off Thursday, a day later than planned, for a trip to Israel. Members of synagogues in Bangor, Augusta and Biddeford will spend 11 days there.

Rabbi Steven Schwarzman of Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor is heading the expedition, which was delayed a day because of the snowstorm that blanketed the mid-Atlantic states Wednesday.

It is traditional for American rabbis to lead their congregations on trips to Israel.

This is the first trip Schwarzman has led since becoming the spiritual leader for Bangor’s Conservative synagogue.

The trip will combine religious, cultural and tourist experiences, the rabbi said Tuesday.

The itinerary includes a dawn hike in the Negev Highlands; a camel trek in the desert; a visit to the home and grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister; a trip by cable car to Masada, where Jewish freedom fighters faced Roman soldiers 2.000 years ago; a tour of a winery in the Golan Heights; a meeting with a cabalistic artist; and a walk along the ancient streets of the Old City in Jerusalem.

“We have worked to build a program that, in the short time span of 11 days, will give you a representative taste of Israel,” the rabbi wrote in a letter to his fellow travelers. “For first-timers and for those who have spent extensive time in Israel, we hope you will continue to deepen your relationship with the wonderful people of this country and with each other.”

He concluded: “This is one more blessing that we will enjoy — the blessing of deepened and renewed commitment to each other back home, to Israel, and to living more Jewishly after our return.”

The group received letters from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Gov. John Baldacci as they departed.

“What you learn and experience in Israel,” the governor wrote, “will serve to broaden your outlook of relationships between our countries on a personal, social and civic level. I am confident that you will return eager to share these experiences with others throughout our Maine community.”

The travelers are scheduled to return to Maine on Monday, Feb. 22.

The group’s activities can be followed online at www.mainegoestoisrael.blogspot.com.

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