Over 800 South Floridians travel to Israel for country’s 70th birthday

TEL AVIV, Israel (WSVN) — It is the journey of a lifetime for more than 800 South Floridians who have traveled to Israel to experience a monumental moment in the country’s history: the 70th anniversary of the Middle Eastern nation declaring independence.

This is not just a trip around the globe for these travelers. It’s a mission with a purpose: “Israel at 70.”

The 19-bus group’s itinerary includes stops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.

The landmark occasion holds special significance for Bill Schwartz, who until this year had never traveled to Israel.

“I’m no longer a kid. I’ve less time in front of me than I have behind me,” said Schwartz, “and you want to find meaning in life. This is one of the ways you find meaning: you go back to your heritage and check it out.”

Schwartz spent years as the face of the City of Miami Police Department, where he served as the public information officer.

Bill and Shirley Lehman have made this journey many times. Shirley, the child of Holocaust survivors, said Israel’s foundation and sustenance is close to their hearts.

“As you get older, things change a little bit, and you realize the importance of keeping a people together and alive,” said Bill.

This is the largest contingent of South Floridians to make the trip to the Holy Land since the Greater Miami Jewish Federation started making these journeys back in the 1990s.

A six-hour drive away is the border with Syria, where the U.S. led airstrikes Friday night, but these travelers said they are not deterred and not afraid.

“Our people from Miami are uniquely connected to the State of Israel,” said Barbara Black Goldfarb, the chair of Israel at 70. “They love Israel, and they don’t worry. They know that they feel that they’re home, and this is where they wanted to be on the 70th.”

For more than 100 of these travelers, this marks their first trip. They marveled at the progress the State of Israel has made since May 14, 1948.

“It’s a miracle what’s happened here,” said a woman.

It’s a miracle that’s tangible, and has pulled hundreds from South Florida back to where it all began — in the Holy Land.

Stay tuned to 7News and WSVN. com for further coverage of Israel at 70, including interviews with Holocaust survivors.

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