I Love Israel with Jamie Rodny

Jamie Rodny

This is the ninth post in a series discussing love of Israel. Thank you Jamie Rodny!

When was the first and last time you visited Israel?

In 1999, when I was 16 years old, I went to Israel for a 2 month long trip with 118 Jewish teenagers from all over the Bay Area in Northern California. It was amazing and truly a pivotal experience in my life. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back even though I really want to experience the beauties of Israel again. 

What is your most memorable moment from the trip? 

The most memorable moment from this trip was being broadcast live to California from the top of Masada as the sun began to rise over the horizon. I, along with a few other excited teenagers, were offered the opportunity to tell our stories and experiences to our family and friends in the Bay Area. I was so overcome with gratitude and emotion in the moment of retelling my incredible adventure to my parents, little brother, and grandparents that I began crying while having the biggest smile on my face. My mother later told me that my tears of joy made everyone in the room at Cal State East Bay cry and laugh simultaneously. She said that in that moment, she realized that she had been wrong to argue with me about allowing me to go on the trip (she was scared for my safety). She could tell that the journey shaped my soul and was grateful that I won the fight, for once. Climbing the zig-zagging snake path up Masada before sunrise was a thrill. Walking along the same dirt paths as Jews did thousands of years ago made me feel connected to history. And being broadcast to tell my tale across the globe to my family was truly a gift. It was just a very magical experience in the holiest place on earth.

What is the best food you had in Israel?

The best food I had in Israel included the amazing chicken shwarma wraps and falafel in pita that we got from the street vendors. I absolutely fell in love with the Israeli chopped salad. And every chance we got, we ran to the ice cream truck or market to buy Magnum ice cream bars, which are the best ice cream bars EVER. I still crave that sweet tea that we were served by the amazing Bedouin people in the Negev.

Favorite place to visit?

I can’t just pick one place. My favorite places that we visited are Eilat, Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Jerusalem. The incredible historic and religious landmarks outshine the nightclubs and restaurants of Tel Aviv. I also LOVED walking along the walls of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is also a very strong, magnetic place that causes one to have a real spiritual experience if they let themselves go there.

How would you connect Jewish youth here in Israel with the US?

Jewish youth should go on the same type of trip I went on for a relatively long period of time so that they truly learn and understand what Israel is all about. Israel is an experience. There is no other real way to connect people with a place. They must experience it for themselves. The week long birth right trips are nice, but I do not believe them to be THAT impactful. Going for a full summer to Israel with a big group of kids from your community is a very enriching experience. Thus, if Jewish youth can continue to go on summer long journeys that take them to every meaningful place in Israel, that is the way to connect them to Israel. The connection will remain in their hearts and souls forever and they will become advocates and defenders of Israel forever. I speak from experience.


Jamie Rodny earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Legal Studies, Theater, and Honors in Humanities with a Magna Cum Laude from the University of San Francisco. Subsequently, she earned her law degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law. After graduating from law school, Jamie began her career as a Federal Investigator at the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development, where she enforces federal civil rights laws in housing and lending. Jamie is also a professional photographer, pianist, and singer.

I Love Israel with Limor Schwartz

Linor Schwartz, Voice4Israel
Limor Schwartz, MSW, LCSW. Director of Clinical & Social Services, Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Service

This is the eigth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Limor Schwartz!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

My family still lives in Israel, so we visit annually. My favorite moments are when I can walk with my kids around my childhood neighborhood, my old school, and my favorite beaches and see their excitement when they realize how different life is in Israel than the US.

Best food you had in Israel?

That is such a tough question as with the years, Israel grew up to be a real foodie nation! What I miss the most is a big “toast” from Abulafia in Jaffa- a large sesame bagel full of cheese and a variety of toppings (like olives, egg, corn, etc) and then smashed and toasted. Mmmm….

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

This may be surprising or unknown to some, but my favorite place to visit is the Palmach Negev Brigade Memorial in Be’er Sheva. I went to college at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and quickly found this beautiful site while exploring Be’er Sheva. It sits high on a hill and overlooks Be’er Sheva and the desert and is just beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

Definitely the Mediterranean. I grew up in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv and woke up every morning to the view of the beautiful ocean. I have memories of skipping school and running to the ocean with my friends, or having a wonderful Israeli breakfast on the beach with my family.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Tel Aviv for sure. It’s bustling, and happy and so colorful, and there’s always something to do and see. I love sitting in a restaurant, eating amazing food and people watch on Allenby or Shenkin street.

Limor Schwartz grew up in Israel, and moved to the USA after her service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). She has been part of the Raleigh-Cary community for 16 years, and has worked in the Jewish community for much of it. Schwartz is currently working as the Director of Clinical and Social Services at Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Services. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, 2 children and 2 cats.

I Love Israel with Carin Savel

Carin Savel, Voice4Israel
Carin Savel, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary

This is the seventh post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Carin Savel!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Hearing my cousin Leeyah yelling my name at the airport when I arrived for the first time. We look alike, talk alike and think alike. We got into her car and drove to a tiny place for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but it was like we’d seen each other yesterday. We couldn’t stop hugging and crying.

Best food you had in Israel?

Well, that’s easy– halvah. In the shuk in Jerusalem, I bought 4.5 kilos of it thinking we could eat it all before I left. We wound up giving away what we couldn’t eat– and I regretted that later!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It’s just beautiful and walking through the exhibits is peaceful. Art speaks volumes to me, and is always an indication of the soul of the city.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Dead Sea. Who doesn’t like floating while getting a free facial?

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

That’s a difficult choice, but I’ll say Tel Aviv. It’s an amazing city, full of life, music, lights and laughter. And great restaurants and people watching. Tel Aviv feels like the future and it always asks you back.

Carin Savel is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary. She grew up in New York City and has worked in the non-profit sector and government arenas for over 30 years. Carin has served on the national board of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, is a member of the JCPA Israeli-Palestinian-American Leadership Relations committee, facilitates the JCRC Kosher Pork series, and is currently a member of the JCPA Delegates Assembly. She lives in Raleigh with her new Boxer, Avi.

I Love Israel with Natalie Ecanow

Natalie Ecanow, Tel Aviv, Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I
Natalie Ecanow

This is the sixth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Natalie Ecanow!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

On my eighth-grade trip to Israel, my class davened the Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Kotel during our time in Jerusalem. Welcoming Shabbat through raucous song and dance with seventy of my peers against the backdrop of the setting Jerusalem sun is something that I will never forget.

Best food you had in Israel?

The best food I had in Israel would, hands down, be frozen yogurt in Tel Aviv. Piled high with fresh fruit and Israeli delicacies, I once drove from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv just for froyo.

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

Nachalat Binyamin Market in Tel Aviv. I could spend hours strolling up and down the street browsing the work of Israeli artists and craftsmen.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red Sea.

The Dead Sea. Floating in the Dead Sea is an experience like no other!

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Tel Aviv. The vibrancy and innovative energy of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv is a testament to the strength and influence of the modern State of Israel.

Natalie Ecanow is from Chicago and is a sophomore at Duke intending to major in political science and minor in Middle Eastern studies. She attended Jewish day school and high school and became actively involved with AIPAC during high school. On campus, she continues to be involved with pro-Israel activity through DIPAC—Duke’s student AIPAC group.

I Love Israel with Leora Fields

I Love Israel, Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I, Leora Fields, Jerusalem
Leora Fields

This is the fifth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Leora Fields!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

There are so many memorable moments in Israel! I am who I am because of the time I’ve spent in Israel. I can honestly say that I will never forget the first time I saw the Kotel. It literally took my breath away and thirty years later, it still does. I went to a Jewish day school and am the daughter of an Israeli. But seeing the Kotel in person brought to life every lesson and every story, making them a part of me and even more importantly, me a part of them.

Best food you had in Israel?

In eleventh grade I studied in Israel with Alexander Muss High School in Israel. On our little campus in Hod Ha’Sharon, there was a snack bar named Shlomo’s where all the students would hang out and buy food. In my mind, nothing ever tasted better than a Saturday night spent with friends eating Shlomo’s pita stuffed with schnitzel, overflowing with hummus and Israeli salad.

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The most recent time I was in Israel was two years ago for my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. Our entire family, including all of the grandparents and some uncles and cousins, visited the Ayalon Institute. Every single one of us, age 4 through 78, was mesmerized by this secret, underground ammunition factory disguised as a kibbutz and laundry service. It was run by the Haganah right under the close watch of the British. The incredible planning and detail required to succeed in this mission are examples of the ongoing heroism, bravery, selflessness, and brilliance required to ensure Israel’s statehood.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Dead Sea. My grandparents emigrated from Poland to pre-Israel Palestine to try to help create the state of Israel. They were both teachers and they lived in the desert and made it their mission to spread Hebrew as a modern spoken language. I have photos of my grandpa reading a newspaper floating in the Dead Sea. It was incredible to replicate the photo with my dad and brothers fifty years later.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

How can I choose? Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and should never be taken for granted. Without Jerusalem, Israel is unrecognizable. Tel Aviv will always be dear to me because my Jewish and Zionist identities stem from my experiences studying abroad at Tel Aviv University and AMHSI. To me, Jerusalem is Israel’s heart and Tel Aviv is her soul. You can’t separate the two, as the former is a living reminder of our past and the latter a glimpse of our future.

Leora Fields was born and raised in Rockville, MD, and graduated from University of Maryland where she majored in Journalism and minored in Hebrew. Since first visiting Israel as a teen, Leora has dedicated herself to sharing her love of Israel with her community and her family.

I Love Israel with Susan Goldhaber

V4I, Voice4Israel, I Love Israel
Susan Goldhaber

This is the fourth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Susan Goldhaber!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Going to Masada and Ein Gedi Nature Preserve with my family. We had the most amazing time and walking through the preserve to the waterfall at Ein Gedi was truly a high point of my life.

Best food you had in Israel?

Israeli breakfasts at the hotels. I particularly love the fruits, cheeses, chocolate pastries, and the halavah!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

My sister’s kibbutz, Kibbutz Samar, in the Arava valley, in southern Israel. It is so peaceful and beautiful there and the people are so amazing!

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea.

The Red Sea. I love Eilat and at our last visit we had the most beautiful view of the Red Sea from our hotel room. I also love the Underwater Observatory at the Red Sea in Eilat and could visit there every time I am in Israel.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

They are both amazing, but Jerusalem is so unique that no other city equals it. I love the fact that each time you go to Jerusalem there are new archeological treasures to explore, at our last visit we toured the City of David with an archeologist and learned so much biblical history in one afternoon.

Susan Goldhaber grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended the University of Michigan where she has a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science and a Masters Degree in Environmental Health. She then moved to Washington DC where she worked for the US EPA and moved with her family to North Carolina in 1988. Susan has spent over 30 years working on environmental issues for the government, both at the state and federal levels, and for environmental consulting firms. As a volunteer, she is active in a variety of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including delivering Mitzvah Meals for the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary.

I Love Israel with Orna Drawas

Orna Drawas

This is the third post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Orna Drawas for participating!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

In Jerusalem one evening after dark, we happened to arrive at the Kotel as the IDF was holding their swearing-in ceremony. Hundreds of young men and women marched in with their battalion, and the plaza was packed with thousands of spectators – family, friends and visitors – to see the newest graduating soldiers of the IDF. The Israeli flag blew in the night and the eternal flames burned brightly as thousands sang a most beautiful and meaningful rendition of Hatikvah. Many of us were brought to tears by the emotions and significance of the moment.

Best food you had in Israel?

Believe it or not, when I think of mouthwatering foods in Israel, I crave the classic Israeli salad. Let’s face it, you can’t get real Israeli salad anywhere else in the world, because no place has tomatoes and cucumbers as fresh, juicy, sweet and delicious as they are locally grown in Israel. I savor every bite!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

A hidden Gem known mostly by locals, hiking in the Negev is a great adventure with hidden canyons, cool springs and breathtaking scenery. The weather is great all year long and the night skies are absolutely mind-blowing. I like to hike the Negev, stay in an amazing bed and breakfast and try to capture a glimpse of the Bedouin life.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Mediterranean Sea represents Israel to me. When I grew up in Tel Aviv in the 1960’s, my family went to the (Mediterranean) beach nearly every Shabbat. We walked from our apartment, just a few blocks away, and spent countless hours with local family and friends eating, kibitzing, playing Matkot and swimming. That was our life.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Jerusalem. There is nothing like the Machane Yehuda Market (shuk) on a Friday afternoon. The amazing smells of fresh baked Challah, sweet cakes and a great variety of spices is nearly overwhelming. The hustle and bustle of orthodox men and women, combined with locals and tourists, adds to the intensity and excitement of the upcoming Shabbat celebration.

Orna Drawas was born in Israel to parents who emigrated to Palestine in the 1920’s and were part of the early Zionist movement. Growing up in the US, her home was Israeli in culture, food and spirit. Author of the book: PERFORM LIKE A ROCK STAR AND STILL HAVE TIME FOR LUNCH, Orna is currently an expert in the field of corporate leadership.

I Love Israel with Jill Madsen

V4I, Voice4Israel, I Love Israel
Jill Madsen

This is the second post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel.

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Hands down this would be my first Shabbat in Jerusalem. Truly having a day of rest and then watching the city come alive after Havdallah was amazing. Walking down the street as the sun was setting and slowly watching lights of the local restaurants turn on and people coming out into the street.

Best food you had in Israel?

Breakfast and for someone that doesn’t care for breakfast food that says a lot! All the fresh fruit and cheese and breads, just make it a great start the day!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon. The most beautiful place in the world. I went segwaying there and I felt like the world could just go on forever.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

Dead Sea! I love playing in mud, so being at a place where as an adult it is encouraged to cover yourself in it, is up my alley.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Both! Jerusalem provide a snapshot into history and a pathway to explore and experience Judaism in a way you can’t do anywhere else. Tel Aviv provides a space where you can experience food, nightlife, technology, like no other.

Jill Madsen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and lived there until she moved to North Carolina three years ago to serve as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham Chapel Hill. She has her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees in Education. She spent over twenty years working in education – both as a classroom teacher and in leadership roles. Prior to moving to NC, she served as the Director of Education and then the Chief Operating Officer at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis.

I Love Israel with Orit Ramler Szulik

I love Israel, Orit Ramler Szulik, Voice4Israel, V4I
Orit Ramler Szulik

This is the first post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Special thanks to Orit Ramler Szulik for launching the I Love Israel series. 

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Every moment in Israel is memorable! I always remember when I was 9 years old and the Entebbe Operation took place. Everything in Israel stopped, and I told my dad not to worry because we have “Tzhal” and they will rescue the people. I remember my dad getting frustrated with my comment and telling my mom “only kids and crazy people can think that a rescue is possible”. Then, he sat me next to him holding a map and explained how impossible of a mission that would be. The day the rescue happened, my dad hugged me with teary eyes, and told me to keep believing and always feel safe because we have Eretz Israel. We all left our homes to go dance in the streets. That spirit is the one I carry with me every single day. I can’t think of another nation that would risk that much to save it’s own people.

Best food you had in Israel?

Watermelon with cheese at the beach and every single local chef that is opening up a small restaurant all over the country, they are incredible.

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The grocery store and the “shuk”- market. The smells, sounds and tastes invades me with so much nostalgia of my childhood years and my global and diverse Jewish community.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

All of them! But if I need to pick one, I would say the Mediterranean. Every Friday when my dad was back from work we will take a picnic to the beach… so many memories.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Can’t choose, they are both unique and special. Tel Aviv doesn’t stops to amaze me, the development and growth taking over are spectacular. The beach, the way life goes on after the times we had to run to the shelters, the night life, the food, the people… just fabulous. Jerusalem is sacred, it represents our vulnerabilities, victories and our struggles. Jerusalem touches my heart in so many ways.

Orit Ramler Szulik was born in Israel to Argentinean parents and has lived in seven different countries. Ms. Ramler Szulik moved to North Carolina with her family 20 years ago. Orit is a former Executive Director of the Durham Chapel Hill Jewish Federation and one of the co-founders of the Voice4Israel. She is a Learning Specialist and Certified Coach who founded and leads a Career, Executive and Leadership Coaching and Consulting Company.