Editor’s Note: Fifteen young Richmond couples took part in a wonderful life-changing JCFR Honeymoon Israel trip recently. Rabbi Ahuva Zaches of Congregation Or Ami served as the spiritual leader, and Rachel Peters of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond helped lead the group. Many of the participants waited well over two years to finally touch down in Israel. The following is a reflection of the experience by Darren and Ali Moorehead who both had an incredible time in Israel.
By Darren and Ali Moorehead
We were fortunate to be able to go on the Honeymoon Israel trip in late June with 15 young couples from Richmond. As Jews who were ‘adopted’ into the family and trying to figure out where we fit and how to avoid succumbing to imposter syndrome, this has been an incredible experience and a culmination of our journey.
The friendships we have made with the other couples (many with stories like our own) run deeply after such a short time, and we hope these people will be part of our story for a lifetime.
Our first evening in Jerusalem was Shabbat and it was clear that we “weren’t in Kansas anymore.” The city shut down and the streets were deserted. We lit candles, sang the blessings, and shared challah together at our first Honeymoon Israel Shabbat meal, like so many other families were doing in their homes.
Saturday after sunset, the roads erupted into life with families, shop keepers, and street musicians returning to their routines. It was fascinating to be able to experience Shabbat in this way, with so much participation and acceptance of our favorite holiday at the highest of levels.
At the Western Wall we felt intense power that was moving in a way that we were not prepared for. On the faces of those offering prayers we saw the full range of human emotion: comfort, peace, joy, and even anguish. Bearing witness to so many strangers pouring their souls out in such an intimate way was a powerful reminder of our similarities in a time when most of the world seems intent on focusing on differences and separation.
The pain and sorrow felt while visiting Yad Vashem was nothing compared to the pain of first-hand experience. The Hall of Names, the Children’s Memorial, and the architecture of the museum itself all shine light on those lost that we may carry their memory with us. While we must never forget the terrible things that happened during this time, the museum insists that we remember the vibrancy of the Jewish people. We are a strong, beautiful, living people.
No place was this more obvious than in the marketplaces of Israel. Machane Yehudah Market bombarded the senses: rows of the freshest fruits and vegetables, mountains of spices, and meat being prepared. Jewish foods from all over the world are at your fingertips, and one can travel thousands of culinary miles in two steps.
People jostled about as everyone made their purchases for the week. We were even bold enough to go to Carmel Market on a Friday as everyone purchased their shabbat supplies – it was overflowing with energy.
The following day we went to Jaffa Market, and it was quiet and peaceful as many Tel Avivan shopkeepers kept Shabbat. U.S. supermarkets seem boring and sterile in comparison.
While the experiences were incredible, the friendships we made are what made the trip special. We now have a broad network of friends at almost every Shul in Richmond and have already scheduled play dates for our children. This Honeymoon Israel trip helped my wife and I become better partners for each other, and more effective as leaders in the Richmond Jewish community.
Thank you to the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and Honeymoon Israel for making this experience possible!
To find out how to join the next HMI cohort, contact Rachel Peters, director of community engagement, at JCFR at rpeters@jewishrichmond.
See a few more photos:
For a video on Honeymoon Israel trip, visit: