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by Rachel Thimangu

As 10 of us prepared to embark for Israel by listening to the memories and advice of others who had gone before, one thing became clear: We’re not just taking a trip. We’re making a leap of faith.

Trust the system. Trust each other. Trust Mindee Fredman, our fearless leader and facilitator of The Rubin Israel Experience.

Be open to having at most a deep spiritual experience, or at least an amazing once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Those were some of the thoughts offered by nine past participants at a send-off gathering on Thursday night. We’re the tenth group selected to visit Israel for the first time through the amazing generosity of Pam and Ron Rubin. As past participant Amy Rich noted, “We’re all Rubinites now.”

We were full of questions about what to expect, what we’d do on the trip, what to wear and how best to pack. We heard about the fabulous food, sights and people we’re about to encounter. Our anticipation and their memories ran wild.

Talk to everyone, from organized speakers and family hosts to people standing next to you on a falafel stand line. Taste everything. Dress comfortably, in shoes made for walking, and expect there may not always be time for a shower. Touching the Western Wall may bring you closer to G-d, or just feel like some really old bricks. Riding a Jeep through the desert is fun. Standing on a silent sand ridge, looking at a lifeless expanse may be better.

Our nine days in the Jewish homeland will go fast and furious. The itinerary is jam packed. And none of us can wait to see what happens.

When we return, it’s likely something will be different. We hope to have a stronger connection to Israel and to our St. Louis Jewish community. Many of us, like earlier Rubinites, will find compelling leadership opportunities through connections made because of the trip.

“I can mark in the sand ‘before’ and ‘after’ for me,” said Jim Deutsch of his Rubin Experience.

It’s also clear we will share a common bond as the tenth class of Rubinites: Brett Balber, Lizzie Berman, Jamie Bricker, Shelley Greenfield, Lisa Hirshberg, Alan Scher-Zagier, Vickie Shuchart, Michael Silver, Aaron Wahl and me. I look forward to sharing our experiences, and to sharing them with you.