BZD to take 55+ group on in-person Israel tour

The Western Wall in Jerusalem (gettyimages / stellalevi)

“Next year in Jerusalem” is going to ring very true for participants of the Baltimore Zionist District’s upcoming tour of Israel.

BZD is currently organizing its first in-person trip to Israel since the start of the pandemic. This trip, intended for people 55 and older, will take place from March 22-April 5.

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BZD had the idea for the trip during the summer of 2020, said Caren Leven, the organization’s executive director. Throughout the pandemic, BZD had been holding a number of virtual visits to Israel, and BZD members and visitors kept asking if the organization would be organizing an in-person trip.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to finally meet people that we had been conversing with and meeting with online virtually for the past two years, not only from Baltimore but from around the nation,” said Leven, a resident of Pikesville and member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

As much of BZD’s virtual community is 55 years old and above, they chose to have the tour focused on that age range.

In addition to Baltimore residents, the tour will also include attendees from Florida, California, New York and Las Vegas. Stops will include the cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberius and Haifa, as well as the Dead Sea, the ANU Museum of the Jewish People and Masada.

As of Dec. 16, 25 people had registered for the trip, said Leven. Registration will remain open until Dec. 30. The trip has room for a maximum of 45 attendees.

Two BZD staff members, Leven and Adi Ratzon, BZD’s Israel shlicha, will be accompanying the group, Leven said. Upon arrival, the tour will be led by Jacob Shoshan, an English-speaking and licensed tour guide.

Given the age range of the participants, the trip will primarily involve taking tours of the different sites, rather than any strenuous activities.

“We’re not going to be rafting or ziplining or anything like that,” said Leven, who added the visit to Masada will be done by cable car, rather than by hiking up.

On COVID-19 precautions, Leven noted that the bus they will be using holds 65 passengers, significantly higher than the trip’s maximum allotment. Leven said the trip will follow Israel’s COVID-19 protocols.

In the event that travel is banned between Israel and the U.S. due to the pandemic and the trip is canceled, BZD would offer refunds to those who registered, said Leven. She added that the registration process for the trip includes an option to sign up for trip insurance.

“For me personally, of course I enjoy going back to Israel, seeing my family, seeing my friends, and of course going back home and really just being, for me, in a place where I know that I ultimately belong and miss when I’m here,” Leven said.

For a number of the tour’s attendees, this will be their first trip to Israel, Leven noted.

“We’re taking people to Israel who are in their 60s and 70s, and this will be their first time in Israel,” she said. “And what’s great for us is to be there when these members of ours touch the ground for the first time and really experience Israel with us for the first time. Because we know that there is nothing like being in Israel for the first time.”

Those who would like to sign up for the trip can contact Leven at [email protected].