What could be better than 20 Orange County couples each having an adventure of a lifetime in Israel? All 20 couples having that adventure together! Through Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County (JFFS), Honeymoon Israel launched its first trip for our community’s young couples this past March. The immersive trip to Israel is for couples with at least one Jewish partner and who are early in their committed relationship.
After going through an application and interview process, the 20 Orange County couples were selected to participate in a trip designed to allow them to explore their Jewish identities, learn about each other’s Jewish journeys, and create lasting friendships. It was an experience they will never forget.
Orange County’s second Honeymoon Israel trip will take place February 13-23, 2020. The online application process opens on Tuesday, June 11. To learn more about participating in or supporting the Honeymoon Israel trip for Orange County, please visit honeymoonisrael.org or email Cindy Smith, JFFS Director of Engagement and Honeymoon Israel local staff member, at Cindys@JFFS.org.
“Honeymoon Israel gave us so much more than just a luxurious vacation. We gained the unique opportunity to deeply consider how we want to incorporate Judaism into our new family. Yes, there were memorable adventures, amazing friends, incredible hotels, and delicious culinary experiences. The most special thing HMI gave us was the space to explore who we are and how we want to build our future together with intention. We learned about the history of the Jewish people, the founding of the state of Israel, all the different ways that people can identify as Jewish, and how other couples in Orange County bring Judaism into their homes.
We got to have surprising and honest conversations with the couples in our group – we were taken aback by how quickly we all felt close, comfortable, and connected with each other. And we had the time and space to reflect on and integrate these experiences as a couple. Neither of us had ever been on a vacation that stayed with us the way that HMI has, through memories, friendships, and Shabbat candle lightings. For us, this thoughtfully organized and profoundly meaningful trip was truly about the journey.”
—Mayan Castro and Marianne Bautista, Irvine
“Finally visiting Israel was everything we hoped for and so much more. We will never forget the madness of the markets, the scents of the spices, and the flavor of fresh falafel. There was also the extraordinary feel of the Mediterranean Sea between our toes, the burn of the Dead Sea on our sensitive skin, and the fresh water spray of the Rosh Hanikra grottoes. We will dream about the sun’s rays shining bright over the Western Wall while placing our meaningful notes in its cracks, along with the view of the sunset from the boardwalk of Tel Aviv.
The people of Israel were warm and funny, especially our knowledgeable tour guide who went above and beyond his duties to make sure we had an unforgettable trip. We will cherish the relationships we made with our fellow HMI travelers, hold the memories we made together closely, and look forward to many shared Shabbats and holidays for years to come.”
— Sara Havlena and Ben Winer, Dana Point
“I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve fallen in love twice in my life.
The first time was when I was 22: we were in the same theatre class, and she always wanted to take a kickboxing class. That one-hour lesson turned into seven hours of talking about anything we could think of in her living room, neither of us not wanting the other to leave. She was exciting, unique, and unexpected, and it was everything I didn’t deserve.
The second time was over ten years later, in a tiny Italian restaurant in Jerusalem. We were always a strong couple, but we both realized something over the course of our date: we were forgetting to be exciting, unique, and unexpected, letting routine set in. So I asked her to tell me something I’ve never heard from her, and she told me that she was afraid to continue our relationship with me initially because she’s Jewish and I’m Catholic.
We both laughed at the thought, because we’d always known we were perfect for each other.
Thank you, Honeymoon Israel, for letting us fall in love a second time. And for all the other times we fall in love after this.”
— Jason (and Alix) Galit, Orange
“Our HMI trip was such an amazing experience that we will remember and cherish forever! From exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, to floating in the Dead Sea, to electric scootering in the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, there was never a dull moment. We did not expect the range of emotions we felt in the ten days we were there. There were highs and lows that came with learning more about Jerusalem’s history, the Holocaust, and the state of Israel, contrasted by the new friendships we built, the delicious foods we ate, and the laughs that were shared over a few glasses of wine and inside jokes. As avid travelers, we were not only thrilled to experience a new country rich with history, but also to make connections with like-minded and genuinely kind-hearted people. We were blown away with how quickly everybody shared personal experiences, as well as their feelings and thoughts on different topics, which ultimately brought everyone close together in such a short amount of time.
We are thankful to have built a community abroad that we can continue to learn from and share Jewish experiences with at home. As a couple, we feel more connected to Judaism than ever, and we are excited for the next steps we will take together, and when starting a family. We are so lucky to have our HMI family as a support system at home, and couldn’t be more thankful to be given this experience of a lifetime.”
— Brittany and Ben Levitt, Orange