My husband Brian and I made Atlanta our home three and a half years ago when we moved from D.C..Two and half years ago, we had the great fortune of going on Honeymoon Israel’s inaugural trip from Atlanta.
Honeymoon Israel provides immersive trips to Israel for couples that have at least one Jewish partner. Participating couples are early on in their committed relationships and the goal is to help them build a community with others who are also exploring how they want to incorporate Judaism into their lives. At the time, we had but a handful of friends here – a random assortment of coworkers and people we knew from past lives – but no real group to call our own. Honeymoon Israel changed all of that.
In the two years since our trip, our little friend group has celebrated weddings, Jewish holidays, my bat mitzvah, and every year Brian and I throw one heck of a Hanukkah party. And this past summer, Brian and I hosted the most important gathering of all, a baby naming for our daughter Elliott who we welcomed on January 18, 2018 — double chai!
Ellie’s Hebrew name ceremony included a candle lighting ritual where family and friends lit seven candles representing seven different blessings. I’m a crybaby as it is, but I was most moved when three friends, two from each of our childhoods and one from our Honeymoon Israel trip, lit the candle for community. Brian and I don’t have any family here in Atlanta, so our friends, Honeymoon Israel and The Temple community will be the people who figure most prominently in Ellie’s everyday life. Community is the family you choose, and thank goodness we chose to take a chance on Honeymoon Israel.
Our Ellie was the seventh baby to be born in our group since we returned from Israel. Babies eight and nine were born within four days of Ellie and our group total is now up to fifteen babies. Plus, the trip gave us nearly 40 new friends, and at the rate we’re all having babies, I wouldn’t be surprised if Honeymoon Israel ends up giving Ellie 40 of her own! And you know what that means – 40 bar and bat mitzvahs. I didn’t grow up with Jewish friends, so I’m personally very excited to be able to make up for lost time.
Experiencing Israel as a couple would have been enough, but to do so while befriending nineteen other couples, who were also learning about Israel and figuring out how Jewish faith and culture would factor into their lives, is truly up there with one of the best things to ever happen to us. Honeymoon Israel is truly the gift that keeps on giving.