Aug 31, 2020  By Lauren Lizerbram  Category: Travel,

JNF virtual tours bring hundreds to Israel during COVID-19

Dead Sea Boat Ride photo courtesy of Noam Bedein.

I woke up one morning and said to my husband, Sol, JNF-USA president, that I really missed going to Israel and I know other people feel the same way I do.

He said “How about a virtual tour with a licensed tour guide?” and off he went to call Russell Robinson, JNF-USA CEO. 

Next thing I knew Sharon Joy, JNF-USA national campaign director; Monica Edelman, JNF-USA director of San Diego; and our tour guide, Yocheved Kolchin, were planning the itinerary. I was excited and nervous at the same time. How would this work? Would we feel the excitement of landing at Ben Gurion airport? Could we engage people like we can on a “real” trip? How many places could we see in one day? Would people on our “bus” bond? What about the second part of the day? Would people come back to schmooze? And, would the trip encourage people to want to go Israel with Jewish National Fund-USA when it was allowed?   

To our delight, the trip was a rousing success. On the third day, my friend called me to say she hoped we would be doing a continuation of the trip the next week! That was the aha moment. The trip was so much more than we thought it would be. Sometimes I think I’ve seen everything there is to see. Boy was I wrong! There is always something wonderful to learn and see in Israel. 


When I was interviewed on the San Diego morning news, I got to mention that the $50 Zoom fee per household went directly to the tour guides. Currently, Israel is suffering due to lack of tourism because of the coronavirus travel ban.

So from that first trip, San Diego has now had six more trips, plus more in the making. Sol and I took our family on a trip. Aunt Edie, at age 95, who had never visited Israel, learned how to use Zoom and joined our family trip. We will be sponsoring the Sabra program students (post bar/bat mitzvah) from our synagogue on a trip in the fall. 

Hundreds of people have taken one or more of our JNF virtual tours of Israel. There have been focused-based trips, family trips, school trips, synagogue trips, you name it. 

I have heard from so many people how incredible the tour guides have been. People are having the most wonderful time and I hope they will want to go to Israel and see all the amazing sites they saw virtually. Meanwhile, gather your friends and relatives, JNF will help you with a fabulous itinerary. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Yalla!

Click here to find out more about Jewish National Fund-USA virtual tours.

Lauren Lizerbram is a JNF-USA board member and member of the King Solomon Society, Circle of Sapphire, and World Chairman's Council.