Federation Israel trip full of lively moments

When 100 people travel together for 10 days, a lot happens. Some things are planned and some downright surprising.

Following are anecdotes from a "reporter's notebook" from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Israel at 50 Mission. The travelers visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the JCF's Northern Israel partner area of northern Galilee, including Kiryat Shmona, to celebrate Israel's 50th birthday.

*Looking for the "K": Missiongoers enjoying See's lollipops on the El Al flight to Israel wanted to share their sweets with two young Orthodox kids seated among them, but alas could not. There was no kosher certification on the candy wrappers.

*Born free: For Alan and Susan Rothenberg, a beautiful outdoor Shabbaton at Kibbutz Gezer became a dry-cleaning moment when a bird generously doused them. When Alan got up to speak, sans sweater, he good-naturedly quipped about his "coat of many colors."

*Is this an oxymoron, or something?: Some 25 San Franciscans joined nine folk from the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay on a post-Israel trip to Jordan. Walking through a narrow canyon to view the ruins at Petra, Howard Maccabee was heard whistling not "Dixie" — but "Eliyahu Hanavi," the song expressing hope for the coming of the Messiah.

*A hug is just a hug — or is it?: Also in Jordan, Micky, a rightish Israeli guide, joined the Jordan group, but the leader was Naj, a Jordanian. In the final hour on the bus, with Naj's permission, Micky took the microphone for the first time to talk about Israeli-Jordanian politics.

Having heard Micky behind the scenes, everyone was just a bit on edge. When Micky finished, giving a surprisingly positive overview, Naj responded briefly, citing his differences. For the group, those differences were minute and obscure. Then Micky stood up, looked at Naj and said, "You see — there really aren't any differences. We all want the same thing, to live together in peace."

Then the two hugged. And the whole bus applauded. A very nice moment.

*When Harry met Yechiel: Harry Saal and former JCF Amuta member Yechiel Admoni had been communicating by e-mail since the latter read about the former's Smart Valley in a business publication. The two met in person for the first time at a gala evening for the missionites and Amuta members.

*Tell us what you really think: At a meeting between the JCF's Israel Amuta and the S.F. Overseas Committee, one Amuta member remarked to the Americans, "You can't let the troglodytes and cave dwellers in the Knesset alienate you!"

*Politician or pundit: Avraham Burg, Jewish Agency chair, encouraged a breakfast audience to ask him questions and then, he said, "I'll answer or circumvent them."

He noted that "Israelis think all American Jews are rich — and Americans think all Israelis are heroes. Only 50 percent is true."

*Tell us what you think, part 2: Knesset member Yael Dayan urged the JCF group to speak out about Israel's policies. "You don't have to demonstrate like I did last night," she said, referring to a Peace Now rally. "Actually, that's not a bad idea," she mused, on second thought.