It all started with ‘The Source.’
I read James Michener’s millennia-spanning epic, tracing the historic arc of Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people, while in college. My fascination with the novel triggered a desire to see the world, starting first and foremost with Israel. That, in turn, was the catalyst leading to a decades-long career at Israel Bonds.
Three years after reading the book, I landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, making my way north to Kibbutz Yas’ur, not far from Akko. As a volunteer, I was assigned tasks ranging from picking oranges and grapefruit (fun) to shoveling chicken manure (not so much).
Over the course of several months, I traveled extensively throughout Israel, developing a strong affinity for the land and its forward-looking people.
Eighteen months after returning home, I answered a life-changing ad – Israel Bonds Washington was looking for a public relations professional, and I applied.
Although not long out of college, I already had a diverse writing background, and arrived for an interview armed with what I deemed to be my most impressive writing samples. The executive director made a pretense of examining them and handed them back. Realizing I was about to be shown the door, I hastened to share my Israel experience.
Three interviews later, the position was mine. I was eventually assigned to the Israel Bonds National Marketing & Communications Department, ultimately being promoted to director.
This is my Israel Bonds story in broad strokes. A deeper dive reveals the many remarkable experiences the organization afforded me: meeting giants of Israel; seeing Israel through the eyes of first-time visitors; interacting with individuals defining Israeli resolve; hobnobbing with entertainment personalities; and getting to know devoted lay leaders from three continents.
“A Special Country and a Special People”
Yitzhak Shamir was among the first icons I was privileged to meet. He was on a visit to the U.S., and, although frail, he immediately rose to his feet, hand extended, as I entered his hotel suite. Dignified and polite, it was an honor to sit with the former prime minister and fighter for Israel’s independence.
I was also fortunate to have had several opportunities to be in the presence of another founder of Israel, Shimon Peres. Even after his passing, I had a follow-up encounter that would have pleased the renowned visionary greatly. Dispatched by Israel Bonds to cover the dedication of the Israeli Innovation Center in the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa, I was among the amazed audience members when a holographic Peres materialized to extend greetings at the opening ceremony.
I was particularly gratified to have met Israelis from across the spectrum – soldiers, entrepreneurs, left wingers, right wingers, cabinet ministers and more. Although not necessarily ideologically aligned, they were connected by an obvious love of country. This shared appreciation for Israel’s uniqueness – “a special country and a special people,” as a female Iron Dome battery commander explained it, highlighted for me why the Israel Bonds mission has resonated so deeply for over 70 years.
While this was readily apparent with the dedicated Bonds leadership I met throughout the years, I also witnessed how feelings for Israel transcended the Jewish community. On several Bonds delegations, I observed non-Jewish participants become visibly moved, sometimes to the point of tears, upon seeing the outsized accomplishments of a country ranking 149th on Wikipedia’s list of countries by area.
There were entertaining moments as well. In June 2018, I was in Omaha, Nebraska, for a Bonds event with Warren Buffett, the same night my Washington Capitals were one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. In need of extra karma, I enlisted the Oracle of Omaha to pose with me holding a Caps rally towel. Sure enough, a few hours later the Capitals were Stanley Cup champions.
Other memorable instances included ranking ‘George’ episodes with Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander; Tony Bennett listening attentively as I reviewed the agenda for the black tie Bonds gala at which he was performing; talking baseball with Elliott Gould in the back of a limo; and getting quality face time with comedy legends Milton Berle and Rodney Dangerfield.
L’hitraot Israel Bonds
None of this would have been possible without Israel Bonds, and my time at Israel Bonds would not have been possible had I not read ‘The Source.’ December 30, 2022 was my last day with Israel Bonds. I left with memories spanning decades, and an overt sense of accomplishment.
Toda raba and l’hitraot Israel Bonds – thanks for the remarkable journey.