I didn’t really believe what I heard…You won the raffle! You won a trip to Israel!
I have never won any raffle or lottery. On the other hand, I have never attended a Conexx [America Israel Business Connector] gala.
Mark Spiegel, a wealth advisor with UBS, was going to the 2018 Conexx meeting at the Atlanta History Center. Based on his invitation, I decided to attend to view a popup exhibition in the lobby and to learn how Conexx connects Israel and the Southeast through business.
I was greeted in the lobby of the history center by Shai Robkin, who asked me to purchase a raffle ticket for a chance to stay in his apartment in Jerusalem. As I agreed and took out my wallet, Shai upgraded his request. “You will never ever have better odds of winning a trip for two to Israel!” So now I was purchasing two tickets. It was the second ticket that won the raffle.
At breakfast one morning with Conexx vice president Barry Swartz, I learned just what this 2018 grand prize Israel trip included:
• Complimentary three-night stay at the Carlton Tel Aviv
• One week in Shai and Judy Robkin’s private Jerusalem apartment
• Round trip airfare for two
So, the day came when my husband, Philip Karlick, and I boarded a plane for Israel with our own choices of museum sites, meetings with curators, and a selection of random wandering. The next day we arrived at the hotel. This was an epicurean adventure, from the nonstop buffet breakfast overlooking the ocean to the gourmet dinner on the roof. It seemed that life could not be any better in Tel Aviv.
Yet, from the day of our arrival, there was a level of angst and fear. The gift shop manager reported that a rocket had landed in Tel Aviv because of tension in Gaza. Ynetnews.com was playing on the lobby television screen, with daily updates: IDF attacks two Hamas positions in Gaza in response to border violence. Palestinian killed by IDF fire during Gaza border clashes. Vehicle explodes outside Eilat hotel.
Despite the unsettling news, we continued our trip as planned. Our visits provided a glimpse of the country’s unique art and culture.
Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon
Thanks to a suggestion by Barry, Philip and I drove to Holon and met with Udi Edelman, curator and director of the Institute of Public Presence at the Israeli Center for Digital Art. Also known as the Digital Art Lab, this was an educational center with a library and film collection, new age, digital and video exhibitions. As Philip wandered the center, looking through a virtual reality viewer, Udi explained what visitors experienced through this virtual reality.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The next day included a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which was hosting Gil Yefman’s exhibition, “Kibbutz Buchenwald.” Curator Adi Dahan and Shahar Molcho, assistant to the director, introduced us to this contemporary exhibition, which connected Jewish history, culture and art, and focused on a Holocaust theme and transgender conversations. This was an amazing new discussion, including personal experiences, emotions and a well-chosen selection of artworks and intimate moments.
Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot
On the campus of the Tel Aviv University in Ramat Aviv is the home of this diverse, content-rich and upbeat museum. Dedicated to telling the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish people, it is renewing and expanding, and offering a family-friendly Jewish experience.
Delightful exhibitions focused on Jewish comedians and Jewish humor. Leonard Cohen sang “Hineni, hineni. I’m ready, my Lord,” in one video, and Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews explored their differences in another.
Orit Shaham Gover, the museum’s chief curator, introduced us to an outstanding permanent exhibition in the Alfred Moses and Family Synagogue Hall, “Hallelujah, Assemble, Pray, Study – Synagogues Past and Present” including models of synagogues from different countries. There’s also the special exhibition, “Let There Be Laughter –Jewish Humor Around the World,” and a few traveling exhibitions.
As we said goodbye to the Carlton hotel, we began our journey to Jerusalem and to the Robkins’ apartment, located on Hebron Street in Germantown. Kosher, clean, well-furnished and easy to navigate, the apartment was in convenient proximity to restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations.
It was an aha moment when I realized that Judy and I had traded places. I was living in her apartment while she was substituting for me teaching my Senior University class that Wednesday. The class had a wonderful experience learning from Judy. She introduced her amazing dolls as I was enthralled with the incredible campus of the Israel Museum, the largest cultural institution in the country.
Inside the apartment complex, our neighbor had organized a group of local students who were praying and singing with voices and filling the complex with Shabbos joy.
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, located in the Shrine of the Book, a Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, and the Billy Rose Art Garden with contemporary sculptures. Exhibitions in the galleries included European, modern and Israeli art, and collections focusing on material culture and history. A museum visit could take many hours or even a few days. The galleries are large, and the exhibitions offer both contemporary and traditional insights.
Aish HaTorah World Center at the Western Wall
Aish Hatorah World Center, a non-profit organization and learning center, is located at One Western Wall Plaza, Old City, Jerusalem. A Chihuly glass sculpture hangs in the atrium, and a theater is dedicated by Kirk Douglas, who wanted to share his spiritual experience with visitors.
Bradley Martin, director of programs and group services, was an informative guide who introduced the Aish campus and the upcoming museum visitors’ experience, known as the Western Wall Experience.
In partnership with the state of Israel and the Ministry of Tourism, the Western Wall Experience, with panoramic films and interactive technology, will take visitors on a virtual trip through the time of Abraham to the modern era.
Atlanta Artist in Jerusalem
Atlanta native Andi Arnovitz, who is married to David Arnovitz, is a well-known artist living in Jerusalem. A visit to her home and studio reveals her work as a fabric artist, a printmaker, a bookmaker and an assemblage artist. Andi introduces feminist themes, political conversations, and thought-provoking ideas focusing on religion, gender and today’s politics. Andi was included in the Israel21c list of 10 talented artists making their mark on the world’s canvas.
Winery and Bullet Factory
Our journey took us to Flam Winery, which became kosher in 2010. There we enjoyed a wine tasting on the outdoor patio. My personal favorite is the dry 2018 Flam Rose.
At the Ayalon Institute Museum on Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot, we joined a tour of the former ammunition manufacturing site, an underground bullet factory from 1945 to 1948. This had been disguised as a laundry service and is now a museum and national historical site.
Conexx Gala and Raffle
In 2019, Conexx again offered a gala raffle ticket, with a round trip for two in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Conexx Gala was just on May 21 at the Atlanta History Center.
What a memorable raffle, and what an opportunity this was to visit and connect with a selection of the best arts and culture experiences Israel has to offer. Can’t wait to hear who the next winner is!
Susanne Katz is the director of exhibitions at The Breman Museum.
- Susanne Katz
- Mark Spiegel
- Barry Swartz
- Philip Karlick
- Ayalon Institute Museum
- Flam Winery
- Andi Arnovitz
- Aish HaTorah World Center
- Israel Museum
- Shrine of the Book
- Museum of the Jewish People
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art
- Israeli Center for Digital Art
- Conexx: America Israel Business Connector
- Shai Robkin