Last month our one-year old grandson celebrated his first birthday. Celebrating with him were his adoring family….and Israeli soldiers on duty, 7000 miles away.

Thanks to Pizza for the IDF ordering pizza, falafel, ice cream, and other treats for soldiers and reservists could not be easier. Best of all, you can include a message for the soldiers that’s delivered with the food.

We plan to make this a new tradition in our family. For each grandchild’s birthdays we will order goodies so that a group of hungry Israeli soldiers celebrates along with us.

It won’t be long until our grandchildren can help me order the food and write the message of gratitude. As they grow, their birthdays will become a point of meaningful contact with faraway soldiers. A tangible way for them to support the young men and women who defend our beloved Israel.

Love of Israel begins at home. That connection nourishes our Jewish souls and those of our children.

While family travel to Israel is sure to be among your most cherished and impactful experiences, what sustains and grows that love the rest of the time? Below is a list of ideas to help you connect your family to Israel with joyfulness and meaning.

1. Did you visit Israel on a teen trip? Did you work on a kibbutz one summer? Print out and frame a photo or two. Tell your kids the story behind the photo and then place it in a prominent spot in your home. Photos that are important enough to remain on display convey powerful messages. This one says; ‘Going to Israel is what we do…and someday you will go there too’.

2. Balance Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) with Am Yisrael (the people Israel). Israel is the homeland of Am Yisrael, and your kids are part of that people.

Israel is Israelis, the people we know and love. This is why establishing people-to-people connections with Israelis is so important. If you have family and/or friends in Israel, great! You’ve got your people. If not, you need to bring some Israelis into your life.

Does your community Federation have an Israel Center or shaliach (Israeli emissary)? Turn to them for suggestions and help in connecting your family with Israelis.

If there are visiting Israelis in your community (camp counselors, Israeli scout caravan, etc) volunteer to house them. We did that 18 years ago. The result? The Israeli girl that became part of our family. Or as we like to say, ‘the fifth kid that we got the easy way.’

Many Jewish communities in the US, Canada, and elsewhere are participating in the Partnership2Gether Program, a joint effort of the Jewish Agency for Israel and Federations. The specific programs are designed to build those people-to-people connections between Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.

3. Learn about and follow Israelis who are doing things that interest your family. Sports, technology, music, visual arts, environmental activism- you name it, someone in Israel is doing it. Actually, someone in Israel is probably crushing it!

4. Bring on the culture! Israeli music in the car. Israeli food on the table (Yotam Ottloenghi, Michael Solomonov, to name two). Israeli programs on TV (‘Fauda’ if your kids are old enough).

5. But as your children grow, be candid about Israel’s challenges. Don’t whitewash them. Guide your children toward a mature, nuanced understanding of a complex place. A real place, not Jewish Disneyland. If you keep Israel on a pedestal, the only place it can go is down.

It is easy to think of Israel and the Diaspora- as ‘us and them’. But it’s really ‘us and us’. We are all on the Jewish journey together, despite the miles that separate us.