MIAMI (CBS4) – The huge duffel bags, hundreds of them, were being packed at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Friday as some 800 members of the South Florida Jewish community prepare for a “Mega Mission” to Israel.

Inside each bag, note pads, song books, hand sanitizer, snacks, and a first aid kit in the event of an accident – or worse – during the eight day pilgrimage that is jam-packed with spiritual, cultural, political and patriotic events.

It is the largest Jewish community group to make a pilgrimage to Israel from the United States in more than a decade.

“Every time a person goes to Israel it’s special, whether it’s the first time they’ve been or the 200th time they’ve been,” said Barbara Black Goldfarb, chairman of the federation’s board.

The size of the mission makes this trip particularly special, said Saby Bahar, a real estate executive who is going.  Bahar said the hope is that the hundreds who make the journey will return as “energized” ambassadors for Israel, a people in need of protection.

“I believe it will carry a tremendous amount of force and a tremendous amount of meaning for this community,” Bahar said.

Josh Rader and his wife, Michelle, a young couple, are also making the trip.  Michelle has been before, but as a child.

“As an adult, you see a lot of different things,” she said.  “You see everything differently.”

Josh Rader is making his first trip to Israel.

“I’m sure I’ll come back in a week and a half with completely different outlook on not just being Jewish, but on Israel and its place in the world,” Rader said.  “I’ll have a completely different perspective.”

It is a perspective he will be able to pass on to his two year-old daughter, Harlee, and the couple’s twins who are on the way.

“We’ve had the opportunity to sit across and have discussions with holocaust survivors,” Radar said.  “My daughters are never going to have that opportunity because that generation is dying off.”

Bahar also said the mission to Israel will help assure that one of the most evil moments in the history of mankind will not be forgotten.

“As time goes by, the memory of the holocaust starts to fade,” Bahar said.  “It is our responsibility as leaders of this community, as Jewish leaders, to make sure that doesn’t occur.”

During their time in Israel the group will meet with the President, the U.S. ambassador and participate in numerous ceremonies, including one honoring Israeli soldiers who have given their lives.

“Almost everyone who is going has ties to someone who has died defending Israel,” said Black Goldfarb, the federation chairman.


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