Members of a special Israel Heritage Foundation delegation recently returned to the US from a meaningful and life-changing six-day experience in Israel. The diverse group, consisting of politicians, rabbis, medical professionals, and businesspeople, traveled throughout the Holy Land from August 4-9, 2023. The packed schedule included dancing along with thousands at the Western Wall on the Sabbath eve, praying at the burial places of the Jewish matriarchs and patriarchs in Hebron and Bethlehem, witnessing the testimonies at Yad Vashem about the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and tasting the very fulfillment of Biblical prophecies at a winery in the town of Shilo.
Led by Dr. Joseph Frager, Rabbi David Katz, and Gov. Mike Huckabee, members of the delegation also met with numerous dignitaries who spoke cogently about the need for judicial reform and the importance of spreading the word in the US about all the good that Israel has to offer. Capped off by a gala event hosted together with Israel National News – Arutz Sheva at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem and emceed by Yoni Kempinski, they were addressed by leaders that included Governor Huckabee, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman, and MK Simcha Rothman as well as MK Ohad Tal.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich encouraged the audience to advocate for Israel, stressing the incredible pace of the country’s development in all fields in recent years and even in just recent months.
Dr. Joe Frager introduced MK Simcha Rothman—who is the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee—by calling him “the hero of Israel today” who “has taken on everyone in the entire universe” for the cause of judicial reform, which “should be a no-brainer.”
For his part, MK Simcha Rothman profoundly declared that “when you know the why, you can know the way. You cannot allow the dead hands of the past to keep you from going forward. It is natural for democratic societies to go through changes. Although objections are necessary, when you hear protestors yelling about ‘democracy!’, you should respond with ‘democracy!’”
The personal impact that the various sites made on each individual in the delegation was also of note to hear. For former South Carolina State Representative Katie Arrington, whose great grandfather’s family was devastated in the Holocaust, visiting Yad Vashem was one of the most humbling moments of her life. She is now determined to “do anything to help the Jewish people in Israel.”
New Jersey State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that the most powerful moment for her was at the Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch. She only wishes that her mother, who taught her about the supreme importance of God and Israel, would have still been alive to see her standing there. She intends to take the experience with her back to New Jersey and hopefully to Washington, DC.
Steve Smith, who served as Special Assistant to President Trump, remarked how it was the combination of the spirituality of the religious sites together with the very tangible physicality of places like Shilo that made this visit (his first) so uplifting and strengthened his faith in the continued partnership between the United States and Israel.
IHF Executive Director R’ David Katz marveled at the beauty of seeing thousands of people of all ages at the Western Wall on Friday night. While R’ Katz has been to Israel on many occasions, this trip marked a first for him being at the Wall for Sabbath eve prayers. In his address to the group, he put an emphasis on the importance of having a sense of security in Israel overall and implored the Israeli government to ensure that people continue to feel safe and secure walking to the Western Wall on Friday nights.
It was Governor Huckabee, however, who perhaps most succinctly put forth the idea driving the Israel Heritage Foundation’s delegations. He explained the reason he has come to Israel so many times since his first trip 50 years ago at the age of 17. “It wasn’t political or geographic. It was spiritual. I’m a simple guy—I read the Book. The Book says that those who bless Israel will be blessed. And why do I keep coming back? Because God is up to something incredible here and I don’t want to miss it!”