|”We Learned the Truth”|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Vicki Goldwyn (center) during the NIF Study Tour.
John and Vicki Goldwyn have always had deep ties to the US Jewish community and to Israel. During the Yom Kippur War, John took a break from college to go to Israel and contribute to the war efforts. Vicki has long been active in Jewish life in the Chicago area, having served in leadership positions, including as the executive director of two synagogues. They both express a deep commitment to social justice and to Israel.
For years, the Goldwyns were in the NIF orbit, but it wasn’t until they decided to participate in one of NIF’s study tours in March 2009 that their involvement became a passion. “We were hooked,” Vicki said of her experience, “deeply hooked.”
John and Vicki were veteran travelers to Israel before participating on the tour. But despite their past experiences, they both felt the NIF trip was eye-opening. When asked what she learned about Israel after seeing it through an NIF lens, Vicki responded “the truth.”
NIF tours examine the realities of contemporary Israeli life – the Israel beyond the newspaper headlines and television sound bites. Participants meet with the key shapers of Israeli social policy – Knesset members, prominent lawyers, academics, artists and, of course, activists. They speak to people with diverse view points from settlers to liberal activists; new immigrants and veteran Israelis, Orthodox and secular; Palestinian and Jewish.
Vicki explained that the NIF tour provides a space to learn about some of the most complex and difficult issues facing Israel today such as the settlements, the security fence, and the struggles faced by different population groups. “Only through the study tour could you uncouple those issues and address them individually before bundling them back together in a cohesive way. It really makes it possible for the participants on the trip to grapple with these issues.”
Some of the highlights for the Goldwyns included a visit to the Supreme Court and a discussion on warfare with a female army colonel. But visiting a settlement was one of the most powerful experiences for them. “It was eye opening and we really struggled with it,” Vicki said recalling their discussion with Israel Harel, a leader in the settlement movement, explaining why he feels so passionate about the issue. “It’s not a simple subject,” she continued, “and that is the most important feature. NIF isn’t frightened to broach those subjects.”
The Goldwyns were so moved by their experience that they recently decided to make a major gift to ensure the continuation of the program. “Of all the visits we’ve made, NIF blew it out of the water,” Vicki said. The Goldwyns feel it is critical for other’s to have the opportunity to explore Israel through the NIF perspective. And they feel that by going - by being quiet and listening to and learning from divergent Israeli voices – that Americans can make a significant impact on Israeli policy and civil society.
Vicki added “Great food and great socializing too!”