Families use summer vacation to visit Jewish State

Goldberg family trip gives Sophia a chance to practice Hebrew

[by Phyllis Shaikun, Special to Community]

(See full image gallery at the end of this article.)

This has been an exciting, enlightening and exhausting summer for Alyson and Jeffrey Goldberg and their 10-year-old daughter, Sophia. Their travel agenda has taken them through six different time zones in the United States and abroad since May, when they began their odyssey with a one-week trip to Israel.

There were several different reasons for their visit, Aly explained. She had always wanted to go to Israel, and Jeff, who had spent an eight-month-long residency at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem in 1986, was anxious to return. The trip was also an opportunity for them to catch up with some of the students who had stayed with them in past years through the Federation’s Partnership programs.

And finally, it would provide a chance for Sophia, who has been home-schooled for the past few years and has been studying Hebrew as a second language, to have some hands-on practice with verbal communication.

Sophia also polished her Hebrew skills both before and after their trip when the Goldbergs hosted Dikla Alegra Levi, the Jewish Community Center’s shlicha, in their home for five weeks. She and Sophia made signs and flash cards and worked together on her language development each afternoon.

When Aly initially contacted Alitalia Airlines to book their Israel flight, she was surprised to learn there was a unique opportunity to add another dimension to the family’s travel and save money at the same time. If they booked a layover of at least a few nights in Italy on their way home, their airfare cost would virtually be cut in half! They speedily and happily arranged for a week-long stay in Italy on the return trip.

As for the land portion of their trip, Aly sought advice from her friends, Faina and Ariel Kronenberg, and a local travel agent, Herlene Margulis.

Once Jeff’s cousins in Tel Aviv, Ze’ev and Irit Livnat, heard the Goldbergs were coming, they planned the itinerary and accompanied them to sites in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ein Gedi. The Livnat’s parents and grandparents actually helped to found Tel Aviv, so their personal knowledge added a wonderful dimension to the trip.

“We changed hotels four times in six days,” Aly laughed, “it was amazing, but we were tired.”

Sophia didn’t miss a beat and enjoyed all of the activities including swimming in the Dead Sea and exploring the rain forest at Ein Gedi. Since their cousins knew the owners of a camel ranch, they were able to have tea with the Bedoin ranchers (which was very nice) and to drink camel’s milk (which was not so nice!).

The family had a private tour of the underground tunnel that sits below Jerusalem’s Western Wall. They entered on the Jewish side and reached a section closest to the Ark of the Covenant. As they exited through the Muslim area, two IDF members flanked their group, escorting them out and cautioning them that while they were under their watch, the group should talk to no one.

They quickly found themselves on the Via Dolorosa, the route believed to have been taken by Jesus on his way to Calvary. Aly remarked they felt they had seen three of the world’s great religions in just 10 minutes’ time.
She emphasized that whether they were at the Wall or in Tel Aviv or in the south, they felt totally safe in Israel. They found the people welcoming, kind and grateful to have had tourists come to visit.

Their stay in Italy gave them time to relax a bit, to visit the Jewish district in Rome and to take in some tours of historical sites. Aly was particularly delighted to find so many different flavors of lactose-free gelato – a really unexpected treat!

Their summer travels continued with trips to Chicago to see Jeff receive a Master’s degree from Northwestern University and to attend the wedding of their Hindu neighbor to a Chicago girl whose family is of the Sikh faith. (Aly says you can compare this to a Jew marrying a Catholic – doable, but a bit complicated.)  They recently returned from an Alaskan cruise with Jeff’s parents, Linda and Stuart Goldberg, and his siblings and their families.

Although Aly and Jeff have no specific plans for a return trip to Israel, they and Sophia have no doubt they will be back. In fact, Sophia might well be ready to serve as their bilingual guide.


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