Friendship : JNF-USA’s finest souvenir from Israel
Photo: Courtesy Jewish National Fund-USA 
Dallas’ Jeanie Siegel is third from left in the front row next to the soul sister she met on the trip, Dr. Ros Barron of Springfield, Massachusetts.

By Deb Silverthorn

It is said that friendships are golden, and that spirit is true for participants in Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) Sunshine Tour for Active Adults 55 and older. It is offered twice each year; registration is open now for the June 4 through 13 adventure.

“This trip is life-changing. That is our goal and that is what we hear from everyone who has had the opportunity to share in it,” said Matt Bernstein, Jewish National Fund-USA’s chief planned giving officer. “The sights, sounds and society that is our people, that is Israel, brings us all ‘home.’

“In 10 days, we take people through our biblical history to the modernization of Israel,” said Bernstein. “I have been more than a dozen times and, on every single trip, the interfacing with our guests is a gift. On every trip there are tears of connecting to who we are.”

It had been decades since Dallas resident Jeanie Siegel had been to Israel, a place she’d gone as a teen and where she lived for a number of years surrounding the Yom Kippur War. She saw an ad for the Sunshine Tour in JNF-USA’s B’Yachad Magazine just as her urge to return to travel to Israel had resurfaced. She made contact and called to question if sharing a room was possible.

Siegel and Dr. Ros Barron, of Springfield, Massachusetts, were connected by JNF-USA and the two women first emailed, spoke by phone and then on Zoom. In a short time they moved from strangers to sisterhood. The two are planning to return to Israel in October, with Barron’s Temple Beth El, again sharing a room.

“We’re both only children and I’m telling you, we are soul sisters,” said Siegel, a member of Congregation Anshai Torah. “We saw things we’d both seen there before, we shared in many new experiences and every bit of  Hanukkah — lighting the menorah at the hotel and seeing the lights in the streets and shops — was memorable.”

Long a Zionist, and member of JNF-USA’s Southern New England board, Barron had sponsored the painting of a bomb shelter in Sderot, and friends had donated toward the JNF-USA-supported Ammunition Hill Memorial and Museum and Urim Army base in the Negev, in memory of her late husband Dr. Alan Barron. During the trip, she visited those sites.

“My first trip to Israel was on my honeymoon and there’ve been many since. Each was special and wonderful in its own way. From this, I brought home the best souvenir, a dear new friend. Jeanie and I are so similar,” said Barron.

The June trip will immerse travelers in Israeli culture from start to finish with travels through Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Galilee. Day trips to Masada and the Dead Sea are also offered. Guests will enjoy authentic fine cuisine and luxurious accommodations. During the week-plus tour, participants will be accompanied by storied and entertaining tour guides and visits from local leadership.

No additional donations are required of participants. Nevertheless, Bernstein finds that many want to support JNF’s wide array of projects in Israel.

Pricing for the 10-day journey is $5,970/person for double occupancy and $7,820/person for single occupancy. As Siegel and Barron found out, the price is right for a memory-making opportunity and the gift of friendship.

“As a kid, I jumped on a plane many times for spontaneous trips to Israel. College, marriage and kids happened and now, for me it was time to get back,” said Siegel. “The price made me pause and I figured sharing a room would be helpful. I had no idea I’d end up with a dear friend for life.”

For more details or to register, visit, call 800-562-7526 or email Cheryl Lefland at Additional JNF-USA travel to Israel programs can be found at : JNF-USA’s finest souvenir from Israel

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